Your Reading List

Lake Manitoba Flood Puts Life On Hold

co-operator contributor

It s October, surely the water is gone by now, isn t it? Unfortunately, no. For people who live near and around Lake Manitoba, the flood continues. In all likelihood it will become the Flood of 2011-12. No one wants to talk about it. Some people are tired of hearing about it. But not as tired as those around the lake who continue to live with the destruction the flood has caused.

Frustration is fuelled by the fact that the flooding of Lake Manitoba was not an Act of God. It is man made and government controlled.

The Portage Diversion diverts water from the Assiniboine at Portage la Prairie down an 18-mile channel to Lake Manitoba. Completed in 1970, it was part of a larger attempt to prevent downstream flooding.

With its construction, Lake Manitoba became a managed lake. This past May, water volumes up to 34,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) were forced down the diversion 9,000 cfs more than its original design capacity.

Flooding for farmers west of the diversion began Apr il 15 when water started pouring over the west dike (road to the Delta Marsh Field Station).

This little-talked-about area is near the end of the diversion, almost three miles from the lakeshore. By April 19, the water had travelled up to 3.5 miles west and continued to swallow up farmland as it flowed in a northwesterly direction.

Whi le the water has receded slightly, the fields still appear as lakes today.

As of Oct. 3, Lake Manitoba was still at 815.10 ft., down two feet since the peak of 817.15 ft. in mid- July, but still one foot above the flood level of 814 ft. and several feet over the desirable range of 810.5 – 812.5 ft.

The evaporation caused by warm, dry weather this summer and fall has been our greatest ally. At the end of August, the Fairford outlet was still operating at full capacity. The emergency channel is under construction but not yet completed and will not be operational until this winter.

By late September, the tops of some culverts and fencelines, not seen since spring, reappeared, at least from time to time. Roads previously impassable can now sometimes be used, depending on the prevailing winds. But even moderate winds create anxiety as they move water effortlessly back and forth over our properties, changing the water levels by at least a foot.

Fall storms are a concern as the lake was at 815.44 ft. on May 31 (only slightly higher than the current level of 815.10 ft.) when gale force winds sent 10-to 12-foot waves crashing into property and homes, causing unimaginable devastation, up to four miles inland.

While some fields are still 100 per cent lake, smooth debris-covered deltas are appearing in others as the water slowly recedes. Here, cleanup can begin and mini-mountains of logs and rubble are piled up like Inukshuks marking the flood line.

How long will the cleanup take? Will fields be fit for seeding next year? How will this affect the productivity of the land? When will ranchers be able to bring their cattle back to their farmyards? When will the hundreds of displaced people be able to return home? Ring dikes and sandbags still surround properties. How long will this be necessary? What will become of the businesses and First Nations struggling from the flood? Where will the water flow next spring when culverts and creeks freeze solid this fall?

Futures hang in the balance as we wait for our lake to return to desirable levels.

The worry is like a shadow, following us wherever we go. Promised compensation is slow in coming and often inadequate. The wait-and- see game continues, on so many levels.

People are shocked when they drive around the lake and neighbouring property. Many thought the flood was over and the water had receded. How can there still be water on land that is two or three miles from the lakeshore?

With the election now over, it s time to invite the politicians and bureaucrats out for a tour. They need to see first hand how their decisions have affected our lives, our livelihoods, and our communities. Lake Manitoba cannot continue to be a dumping ground for excess Assiniboine River water.

And the people in the 11 municipalities around Lake Manitoba need to be compensated fairly, adequately and timely.

Come take a look, we ll gladly show you around. Seeing is believing&


Futures Hang In TheBalance As We Wait ForOur Lake To Return To Desirable Levels.

About the author

Freelance contributor

Sandi Knight is a farm wife and partner, mom, professional writer and amateur photographer who lives and works in the Macdonald, Man. area. You can find more of her writing at



Stories from our other publications