Sunday, October 23, 2011

Year-Round Spring Flooding in Manitoba

The spring floods in Manitoba never did recede to normal summer levels, and it is not likely to happen over the winter either, according to the province. The worst problems are in Lake Manitoba, which saw coastal flooding last weekend because of high water levels and high winds, and downstream at Lake St. Martin, where several rural communities remain evacuated. To reduce the chance of a flood disaster in April when snow melt will feed into already flooded lakes, the province is digging an emergency trench through the bog east of Lake St. Martin to drain that lake faster into Lake Winnipeg. Freezing weather has held off so far, and with luck, the channel may be completed and put into operation in the middle of November, so that it can drain water away from the flooded lakes through the winter. The emergency channel may cost $100 million, but that is not so large compared to the almost $1 billion in flood damage that occurred upstream this year.

The political aftermath of the spring flooding shows frustration with the limitations of flood management. Much of the land in southern Manitoba and the neighboring areas of North Dakota and Minnesota is formed from an ancient lake bed. It is the nature of a lake bed to hold water, and the citizens, politicians, and engineers who try to get the area to shed floodwaters as easily as the other areas of North America are working against that nature.