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Lake beach residents fearful

Bracing for possible repeat of 2011 flood catastrophe

Lonnie Kaslan

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Lonnie Kaslan

TWIN LAKES BEACH -- There is fear, frustration and sadness in this Lake Manitoba beach community that saw high water and powerful winds devastate cottages and permanent homes just three years ago.

Adam Dalman

Enlarge Image

Adam Dalman (MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

Residents Sunday were bracing themselves for a possible repeat of 2011's catastrophe -- many angry that more hasn't been done to better drain the lake in the intervening years.

Many have rebuilt cottages or homes on higher ground, but wonder if they're secure. Some have parked trailers on lots on which cottages once sat that were passed from generation to generation.

Along much of the beach on the southeast shore of Lake Manitoba, geotubes and giant sandbags offer protection -- although there are weak spots in the dike that require attention.

There's also the fear high water, whipped up by raging winds, will send water around these protections and flood their properties from the east.

"It's a huge concern," said Frank Renouf, referring to the huge amount of water expected to enter the lake again through a ramped-up Portage Diversion channel. "Everyone's very, very anxious."

Renouf built his cottage in 1971 and raised it and pulled it back from shore prior to the 2011 flood. So it was saved. He has since raised it some more.

But the flood devastated the cottages of several other family members, including one built by his dad in 1946.

He and several other cottage owners and permanent homeowners interviewed here Sunday wonder why a second outlet channel or an improved outlet has not been built to drain Lake Manitoba, as has been recommended to government.

Twin Lakes resident Rick Sobey said it makes no sense for the province to be diverting massive amounts of Assiniboine River water into Lake Manitoba -- the Assiniboine naturally flows into the Red River and then on to Lake Winnipeg -- without a proper outlet for the lake.

Now that the lake is rising once again, he fears high winds will once again lash the community.

"If that wind blows for two days, we have a lot of water heading this way," Sobey said.

Some, like Adam Dalman, are on the brink of packing it in.

He and his family have had cottages at Twin Lakes for generations. In 2011, four of them -- on three parcels of land -- were destroyed. He has not rebuilt and has pulled a camper trailer onto the property.

"We're fighting for our lives every frigging minute. It's so hard to fall asleep at night right now," said Dalman, who fears what's coming this year is "going to make 2011 look like nothing."

But not all cottage owners were speaking doom and gloom on Sunday.

Lonnie Kasian plans to build a large cottage this fall on land he bought from his next-door neighbour, whose property was wiped out in 2011.

His own cottage survived that flood, although the garage didn't.

"I'm willing to make an investment here for my family. I'm not leaving," he said. "I'm positive. I'm not negative."

Kasian's property is in a slightly less vulnerable spot than some. It's located north of where the worst damage occurred three years ago.

He said he believes the province will tackle the lake-outlet issue.

"The government will address it. I have faith in the government," Kasian said.

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

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