“I would say 98 per cent of the people are prepared for the flood.”
– DAVE WALDNER
The Flood of the Century seriously disrupted Dave Waldner’s hog operation. But if it happens again, he’s ready.
The ring dike around his farm east of Rosenort has been raised two feet above 1997 flood levels. Municipal water is piped to the barn, so hogs won’t have to drink flood water, albeit filtered and purified, as they did last time. Just to be sure, though, Waldner has relocated his water dugout inside the dike.
But memories of 1997, when the Waldner farm was cut off by flood waters for weeks, still linger. The operation lost revenue when pigs had to be sold below market weight before the flood arrived or overweight afterward. The breeding program was set back when fresh breeding stock couldn’t be placed.
Even so, Waldner was much better off in 1997 than he was in 1979, when nobody expected a flood and his farm was inundated.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
This time, the watchword for farmers in the heart of Manitoba’s Red River Valley is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
“I would say 98 per cent of the people are prepared for the flood,” said Waldner, 73, whose two sons and a son-in-law now operate the farm.
“I think everyone needs to look at their site and be prepared. If this is going to come, it’s going to come in a big bang, like it usually does.”
Forecasters say a flood of 1979 proportions is possible in the Manitoba portion of the Red River Valley this year because of deep snow in the U. S. watershed. But that depends largely on the weather. Significant precipitation over the next few weeks will decide.
That was the case in 1997, when an early-April snowstorm turned an above-average flood along the Red River into the biggest of the 20th century, covering nearly 500,000 acres of farmland. In 1950, the year of the second-biggest flood, the river had already crested at Emerson and was starting to fall before the rains came.
But much has happened in the last 12 years to mitigate damage this time.
According to the province, more than 95 per cent (over 1,700) of all homes, businesses and farms in the Red River Valley have been flood-proofed to 1997 flood levels, plus two feet, with help from a $72 million federal-provincial flood control agreement.
Another $43 million program built ring dikes to the same
standard (1997 plus two feet) around 18 communities.
All new developments in the Red River Valley must comply by law with that standard.
Municipalities in the valley have flood preparedness programs. Local emergency operation centres have been greatly upgraded. Three million sandbags are available.
Other measures to help farmers located in the path of the flood waters are on standby.
The Canadian Wheat Board is calling on producers to deliver binned grain to local elevators. An estimated 95,000 tonnes of board grains on 400 farms are potentially vulnerable to flooding. Sufficient elevator space is available at Morris and Letellier, the main delivery points, said Maureen Fitzhenry, a CWB spokesperson.
“We’re fortunate this year to have exceptionally good movement of grain and rail car capacity, so we’re certainly taking advantage of that in every way,” Fitzhenry said.
David Wiens, Dairy Farmers of Manitoba chairman, said six dairy farms are within the flood area but all are protected by ring dikes. One or two producers may have milk pickup interrupted if the waters overflow local roads. Wiens said producers who cannot deliver milk may receive future quota credits.
Farmers needing to transport grain and livestock may receive special permits while spring road restrictions are in effect.
Outside the Red River Valley, spring run-off throughout the rest of the province is expected to range from average to above average, Manitoba Water Stewardship reported March 20.
Extensive flooding of agricultural land is expected along the Souris River near the U. S. border. Forecasters said a flood similar to the one in 1999, when the river at Coulter was up to three miles wide, is possible.
Flooding similar to 2006 is expected upstream along the Pembina River.
Some flooding is likely in the Interlake because low-lying areas are still saturated from heavy rains last summer.
Flooding is seen as unlikely in both eastern and western Manitoba. The flood risk in northern Manitoba is low, although some local flooding is possible.
All these forecasts were issued last week before a precipitation-laden weather system moved across the region this week. The latest outlooks are available at: www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/floodinfo/index.html.[email protected]