It seems like Westman can’t catch a break when it comes to flooding.
With plenty still left to do as we continue to recover from the 2011 floods, there are towns this year that are dealing with emergencies of their own.
Provincial officials were racing to relieve pressure on an overburdened berm in Waywayseecappo yesterday, scrambling pumper trucks from Brandon in an effort to remove some of the huge amount of water that had built up behind it.
The flooded area is more than 30 metres deep and 300 metres wide, and the backed-up water stretches about a kilometre.
Normally, it is a tiny little creek which passes through a culvert on its way to Birdtail Creek.
Now, however, it is a swollen lake behind a crumbling embankment that seems certain to give way —it may even have by the time you read this. That will send floodwaters gushing down into Waywayseecappo at a rate of up to 850 cubic metres per second. That’s enough to fill the Sportsplex pool every second and a half.
All that water, once it hits Birdtail Creek, will make its way downstream to Birtle — where the province has rushed 120 aqua dams — and then to the Birdtail Sioux First Nation, where the water will enter the Assiniboine River and eventually make its way to Brandon.
On its way, it is likely to cause some damage to roads and bridges in the area, although we hope that there has been enough time to protect critical infrastructure like Birtle’s water and sewage pipes, which are strapped to a bridge in the path of the floodwaters. They have now been protected with concrete.
That will add to the flood-repair toll that has already had an impact on the province’s budget — and likely yours, thanks to the freshly raised PST.
It seems increasingly probable that climate change, as has long been predicted, will make spring flooding more likely and more severe, on average, than we have been used to. Conversely, we are also likely to see longer periods of drought as well.
As we swing between those two extremes over the next few decades, it will be prudent to invest in flood control mechanisms now — like dams and reservoirs — that can double as drought mitigation in years to come.
We’re glad that Brandon’s dikes are in the process of being upgraded. And rushing pumps and aqua dams to communities in crisis is an essential part of government response, of course. But rather than simply stumbling from crisis to crisis, then ensuring afterwards that the barn door is firmly closed, we’d like to see a vision for water management that will address permanent solutions.