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Final push before flood crest

Prairie-wide study needed to prevent future deluges: premier

Manitoba government employees and other volunteers were busy slinging sandbags at a home west of St. Francois Xavier Wednesday.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Manitoba government employees and other volunteers were busy slinging sandbags at a home west of St. Francois Xavier Wednesday.

RM OF ST. FRANÇOIS XAVIER -- The first thing Patrizia Moxon thought when she got home from work Tuesday night was: Oh my god, we're doing this again.

By early Wednesday afternoon there were nearly 100 Province of Manitoba workers, Canadian Forces personnel and other volunteers filling sandbags and using them to build a dike around her house.

Trucks from B-Sharp Excavating and other contractors delivered sand and supplied a skid steer loader. The RM of St. François Xavier contributed supplies and volunteers.

"I feel awesome, happy that they're helping me out. They're awesome and big kudos to them... all the volunteers, it's been incredible to see how fast they get things done," Moxon said.

"I walk out to my creek and I watch it every day and it's getting higher and higher every day.

"We had no water and we were safe in 2011 but the numbers change all the time, and the times change (for the crest) all the time so that's what our concern is."

The Assiniboine River was expected to crest near Portage Wednesday evening.

Moxon said her home was safe from floodwater in 2011 so she's hoping for the same result this year.

Jodie Gale, a volunteer who co-ordinated equipment and crews in the sandbagging effort, said 93 properties in the municipality were surveyed and 40 were sandbagged in the past four days.

"Today we were going back to a few places and capping things off for any last-minute preparations (before the crest)," said Gale, who lives in the municipality and owns B-Sharp Excavating, along with her husband.

She volunteered in 2011 and stepped up quickly this time.

"I've been told today (provincial flood forecasters) are actually thinking the water may be a little bit lower than they were predicting, but we're still preparing for what their worst-case scenario was," Gale said.

"We're just making sure," she added.

Gale said the response from the provincial fire/conservation personnel, soldiers from CFB Shilo and other volunteers has been "outstanding."

"They've been amazing. Efforts like this don't get done without a lot of great people. What do they say? Many hands make light work and this is heavy work, but these people have made sure we've met our deadlines.

"All the properties were done last night (Tuesday) except for a couple, so now we're reassessing and reinforcing to make sure we're prepared."

She said they prepared dikes 75 centimetres higher than the 2011 flood level.

At Poplar Point, sandbags were piled along Highway 26 near the turnoff for the JP Bend Arena for anyone who needed them.

In the RM of Cartier, sandbag dikes were built around several homes and there was a sandbagging station near Robidoux Road.

Premier Greg Selinger, who met with media Wednesday at Spillway Park near the Portage Diversion control structure, said his government will look into the bigger picture of flood management in Manitoba.

"I think we have to start doing this bigger approach," Selinger said.

"We have a study going on in Manitoba as we speak, looking at the entire system and how we can best use our resources to manage water.

"We've talked about an outlet coming out of the north end of Lake Manitoba. We've talked about making the emergency channel to Lake St. Martin permanent.

"We have to talk about how we can make the dikes stronger so the whole diversion is properly managed. The whole picture has to be looked at on how we manage water, not only in Manitoba, but across the Prairies."

 

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

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