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Deliberate breach to flood less land than expected: province

Soldiers from the Lord Strathcona's Horse Sqn. based out of Edmonton load an aqua dam into a truck close to the Hoop and Holler bend of the Assiniboine River.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Soldiers from the Lord Strathcona's Horse Sqn. based out of Edmonton load an aqua dam into a truck close to the Hoop and Holler bend of the Assiniboine River.

HOOP AND HOLLER BEND — The province has reduced the area expected to be affected by the deliberate breach in the dike at the Assiniboine River earlier today.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the affected area is now 180 square kilometres, down from the 225 square kilometres believed at risk.

Premier Greg Selinger speaks to media outside the site of the dike breach this morning at Hoop and Holler Bend.

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Premier Greg Selinger speaks to media outside the site of the dike breach this morning at Hoop and Holler Bend. (MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Machinery in the rear is positioned at the

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Machinery in the rear is positioned at the "cut" on the Assiniboine River, diverting water out towards the Elm River, while machinery in the foreground cuts through another north/south road allowing water direct access east into the Elm River. (PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

Crews work on the deliberate breach in the Assiniboine River dike at Hoop and Holler Bend.

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Crews work on the deliberate breach in the Assiniboine River dike at Hoop and Holler Bend. (COURTESY PROVINCE OF MANITOBA)

Bob Kriski herds his leashed cat over the sandbag dike early this morning as officials started to release a controlled breach of the Assiniboine RIver dike .

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Bob Kriski herds his leashed cat over the sandbag dike early this morning as officials started to release a controlled breach of the Assiniboine RIver dike . (PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA)

An aerial view of water flowing from a deliberate breach in the dike holding back the Assiniboine River at Hoop and Holler Bend Saturday afternoon. The breach was made Saturday morning.

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An aerial view of water flowing from a deliberate breach in the dike holding back the Assiniboine River at Hoop and Holler Bend Saturday afternoon. The breach was made Saturday morning. (TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

At a flood update this afternoon, Ashton said the reduction is thanks to the work of survey crews in recent days.

Water Stewardship's Steve Topping said armed forces are working to shore up Assiniboine River dikes in 17 places that have become weak.

Near the site of the breach, water is moving slowly east over fields southeast of Portage la Prairie towards the Elm River.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said earlier this afternoon officials are watching the water's progression to see if roads, ditches and driveways will have to be dug up.

"The water is being released slowly," Selinger said in a news briefing near the breach. "It's gone about a mile to the south-east of us.

"So far it's gone as predicted. It's been a controlled release that has not done any damage to anybody's homes at this stage of the game."

The aim is to move the water to the east and south so that it can be both stored on fields and directed into the Elm River, which eventually empties into the Red River.

Around 7 a.m., heavy machinery began scraping away a layer of rock on a closed section of Provincial Road 331 - Hoop and Holler Bend - to allow water to flow out of a slow-moving Assiniboine oxbow and into the La Salle River watershed.

The water began flowing at the site southeast of Portage la Prairie at 8 a.m. and is now heading south as well as southeast toward a bend in the Elm River, which drains into the La Salle River downstream.

Just before 10 a.m., workers broke through Road 33 West to allow the water to pursue the latter course. Water also flowed into the Elm River, turning the normally translucent body of water muddy.

By midday the overland portion of the Hoop and Holler flood crept past Road 32 West, where it spilled through a natural drain into the Elm River. As of 3 p.m., the water had crept more than 2 kilometres. In open fields, the advancing edge of the water resembled an amoeba extending a pseudopod.

Also this afternoon, crews continued to work atop the dike as a slow gush of water pooled into nearby fields. From the sky above, water could be seen slowly creeping towards the rear of a nearby home and spilling into ditches across adjacent roads, reaching out and pushing forward in multiple directions.

The province's plan was to allow, at first, only 500 cubic feet per second of water through the Hoop and Holler breach -- an amount akin to what flows through a very large culvert.

This water is expected to eventually overtop a series of mile roads in the RMs of Portage la Prairie, Cartier and Macdonald in a manner akin to maple syrup flowing over a waffle.

For now, the affected areas are close to the cut. And the waffle plan is not being used, if the road-cutting is any indication.

Even though the breach has been made, the Canadian military was still working to protect Hoop and Holler Bend homes today. Soldiers were setting up aqua dams around properties four kilometres to the south.

Most properties in the pastoral neighbourhood are already protected. On the edge of the Elm River, 1.5 kilometres from the cut, Bob, Yvonne and Carollyn Kriski packed up their final belongings this morning and were waiting for the water to head their way.

"We're not hurrying to rush away," said Bob, a high-school vice principal in Portage la Prairie.

"There's a morbid curiosity I have. I want to see the water."

After dawn, Bob took Odin, the family cat, for one last little walk near the river, or at least as much of a walk as a cat is willing to allow.

He then placed a file folder full of income taxes in the car, while his wife Yvonne carried a box of vital documents, including the passports.

Along with daughter Carollyn, they tried to consume the remaining food in the house: buttered toast, instant coffee and bottled water.

All three were nervous about the cut, despite the province's assurance the water's flow will be manageable.

"There's not a lot of confidence they can control the flow," Bob said.

South of the Elm River, soldiers from Lord Strathcona's Horse in Edmonton spent Saturday setting up water-filled dikes near the estimated flood zone.

It's expected to take several days for many of the 150 homes in the 225-square-kilometre artificial flood zone to be affected, according to provincial projections.

Many more properties - as many as 400 - are actually bracing for the water.

"Residents in the immediate area have already been evacuated and significant efforts have been put in place to set up flood-protection systems around affected homes," the province said in a statement.

In a television address Friday night, Selinger said the alternative — an uncontrolled break — would be "catastrophic and unpredictable," spilling water onto more than 500 square kilometres of land and up to 850 homes.

Selinger promised those residents who will be in the path of water that they will receive extra financial compensation.

Selinger said he had told his staff to create "a special compensation program above and beyond the disaster assistance and insurance already in place."

"Families and producers affected by the controlled release will receive compensation to cover damages, income losses and the cost of recovering the land after the flood waters recede," he said.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca



History

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 7:22 AM CDT:
Province announces dike breach has begun.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 7:47 AM CDT:
More comment from province.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 8:17 AM CDT:
Water flowing through the cut, province says.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 9:00 AM CDT:
Added homeowners comments and new photo.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 10:08 AM CDT:
Added military update.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 10:52 AM CDT:
Story rewritten for clarity.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM CDT:
Added planned press conference with premier.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 12:54 PM CDT:
Updated with flood's advancement.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 2:53 PM CDT:
Added comments from premier

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 3:14 PM CDT:
Updated story for clarity.

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 3:19 PM CDT:
Added aerial observations of flood zone

Updated on Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 4:04 PM CDT:
Added comments from flood press conference

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Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 39 Commentscomment icon

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One will never know what would have happened without the breech but what we do know for sure is Manitoba sacrificed its citizens, animals, wildlife, ecosystems, and the natural one more time again. What is becoming more and more apparent to those who live outside of diked systems is that you and your family could be next. Life outside the ringed cities/towns has become a very scary game of chess, never really known if you and your family are the next checkmate! The good folks in the Rm of Ritchot, north of Winnipeg, the First Nations, Interlake and Shellmouth farmers have long been saying and living exactly this, to manly deaf ears, but now that we once again have the Nations and Worlds attention may we get the brain power and resources to finally do something about this crisis we have built with our modern day drainage of massive cubic feet per second of water. And if that means buying out farms and landowners, RMs, moving First Nations and Metis communities, then do so. If that means that farm, private, RM and treaty lands, now get paid to store a crop/waffles of water, than get on with it! Bring back some dignity to this shameful sacrificing we are doing and allow these people to make a living in our modern day changing times. They are providing a huge economic and environmental service by artificially storing this water on their lands, so please make the systems and policies to do so. Satelite imagery tell who has the water and for how long and pay accordingly. Peace!

Maybe the FP could do a story on comparing the geography, geology and hydrology of the two rivers and how the two floods are different?

In open fields, the advancing edge of the water resembled an amoeba extending a pseudopod.


Nice

@ zap1.....Couldn't have said it better myself. So many are trying to make this in to a political issue again. First, the government didn't know what it was doing when they raised the dikes this winter. Then, when they decided to add additional protection early this spring....again, they didn't know what they were doing.

Now, in hindsight, that extra work in Brandon saved literally thousands of homes in Brandon, and still....the government doesn't know what it's doing.

This is not the time to make this a political issue, but some just cannot seem to be content in letting the experts do what they do best. THEIR JOBS!!

Interesting way of putting it - must be a 'good-news, all-is-well' cut-and-paste job from a government information department 'news' release.

Bearing in mind that there wouldn't have been any flooding because the people around Hoop and Holler broke their backs, man woman and child, raising privately constructed dikes with their bare hands, to the height advised by gov't ... and a comfortable margin above that mark so they wouldn't have any flooding at all.

One might notice that it's comfy living in Winnipeg ... by comparison.

"faulty guages" ... ok. I don't believe it but you can if you want. A lot of people seem to have been able to predict the problem just by eye-balling the number of votes around Hoop and Holler compared to the number of votes ... never mind.

bigroy

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Nobody and I mean nobody wins against good old mother nature.

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The water is coming to Winnipeg anyway via the Assiniboine. It'll just enter further south.

Ok where do I start, there are alot of positive comments here however there seems to be a number of you that don't have a clue of what is going on and want everyone to think you have the answers. Just a few points that you may consider, do you think this controlled breach was to save Winnipeg? Not, because if the breach wasn't made the water would never get to the city, why do you think they have 7 helicopters and hundreds of Military personal on the dikes north of Elie, because it can not handle the CFS. For the one with all the math skills add up your numbers, I think you will see you will come up short on the 56500 CFS that will be coming through Portage. At the start of the week everyone was saying the breach couldn't be controlled but now that you see it could and has been, I guess its time to move on to the next uneducated discussion, I am sorry we where delt a bad hand and made the best of it.

Regardless, this will impact us all. The farmers that can't seed to get a crop might break even with the compensation but they won't have the profit to buy new equipment so those dealers will lose income. There is a big trickle down effect.
Most city dwellers will notice it most @ the grocery store. Without locally grown food prices go up. If the farmer has to bring in feed for his livestock costs go up again. If the price for food goes up the restaurants need to increase prices.
I just hope those affected worst by this can ride it out. We know they are hardy & will do their best to survive this.

How is it that everyone knows what should or shouldn't be done? If the Manitoba government were to step back and let the Assiniboine river flow and let "nature take it's course" and blow out a dike, everyone would be jumping all over them asking why they didn't do something before hand.....now here's the government trying to make this disaster less painful than what it could be and everyones complaining they're out of their minds.

Take Brandon for instance....initially they built the dikes high and everyone complained it was overkill and a waste of money....then with all the recent water that came through they had to build up another few feet and people were yet complaining asking why they weren't prepared before?

Bottom line is manitoba should have 2 license plate slogans:

1. "Friendly Manitoba"

or

2. "Miserable Manitoban"

I'll leave it up to you to decide what category you fall into.

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