July 5, 2014 8:22 pm
Updated: July 6, 2014 5:15 pm

Manitoba flood: land-owners oppose plan to deliberately breach dike


ABOVE: (Jul. 5, 2014) Manitoba is scrambling to hold back the rising flood waters of the Assiniboine River. Ashley Carter reports.

HOOP AND HOLLER BEND, Man. – Efforts are set to begin to breach a dike in southern Manitoba that will deliberately flood several hundred square kilometres of land and threaten 150 homes.

Crews are set to arrive at the Hoop and Holler Bend southeast of Portage la Prairie today to make the same cut they did during one of Manitoba’s worst floods in 2011.

Premier Greg Selinger said at a hastily called news conference late Friday afternoon that the flood situation in the province is changing rapidly and more water is pouring into Manitoba than officials first predicted.

Officials have to make a controlled cut to ease some of the pressure on dikes holding back the swollen Assiniboine River, he said.

VIDEO GALLERY: Manitoba Flood 2014

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Selinger ordered the same measure in 2011, deliberately flooding the same swath of land and threatening homes in the area to save hundreds more downstream.

Floodwater could start flowing through the deliberate breach as early as Monday.

“The risk is of an uncontrolled breach and then you lose control of what’s going to happen,” Selinger said Friday night. “Once you lose control, you don’t know the magnitude of how much damage will be done and which people and lives are at risk.”

Kam Blight, the reeve of the rural municipality of Portage la Prairie, where Hoop and Holler is located, said they are concentrating their efforts Saturday morning on the area where the breach is to take place.

The RM is getting ready to “deploy resources immediately,” with sand and sandbags coming in, Blight said in a brief conversation Saturday morning.

The moves comes after Selinger declared a provincial state of emergency and called on the Canadian military to help protect 200 rural homes from a surge of floodwater coming from the west. The summer flood caused by torrential rain last weekend is expected to topple records set in 2011.

It’s not clear how many reservists will be deployed in Manitoba but the first wave is expected to come from CFB Shilo near Brandon, Mba. When Manitoba first asked for military assistance, the crest wasn’t expected until late next week.

It’s now expected to arrive in Brandon by noon Saturday and just a few days later around Portage La Prairie.

“We have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 350 properties to protect and three to five working days,” said Lee Spencer, with Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization. “That’s a challenge for anyone. But with volunteers, the property owners themselves and with the help of the military we’re going to do our best to meet those targets.”

The military will help fill up to one million sandbags needed to protect vulnerable properties west of Winnipeg, bolstering the two million sandbags the province has in stock.

Reservists are also expected to move quickly if dikes are breached as the crest moves through the province.

People living along the river have been told the water level could swell half a metre above where it was three years ago. The 2011 flood was one of Manitoba’s worst, as army reservists scrambled to help shore up weakened dikes and sandbag homes along the river.

The province is forecasting similar flows this year when the crest arrives from Saskatchewan as early as this weekend. The crest is expected to move through relatively quickly, though, in a matter of weeks as opposed to months.

The city of Brandon is predicting a series of crests with the first one arriving Saturday. Although people living along the Assiniboine River are on evacuation alert, they aren’t expected to have to leave unless the city’s dikes are breached.

“We should see the water recede slightly for a couple of days, peak again, and then remain for a couple of weeks,” the city said in a Friday evening flood bulletin. “This is a new type of flood and therefore very difficult to predict.”

Torrential rain and flash floods last weekend prompted more than 100 communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to declare a state of emergency. About 300 people in Saskatchewan and 698 people in Manitoba have now had to leave their homes because of overland flooding.

Some 50 muncipalities in Manitoba have declared a state of emergency.

— with files from Lauren McNabb, Global News

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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