The City of Brandon is bracing for the Assiniboine River to rise another five to six feet — coming close to the historic water levels of 2011.
The sharp influx of water is expected to reach Brandon in the coming days as a result of significant rainfall in southeastern Saskatchewan.
"We have a defence system that is superior to 2011, we have tested city crews and we have a community that knows how to respond to this crisis," Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said. "We’re doing everything we can, we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best."
Decter Hirst, along with Brian Kayes, the city’s director of risk and emergency management, held a flood briefing at city hall Wednesday morning.
The city plans to hold a briefing daily at 10 a.m.
"We have had 48 hours without significant rain and this has allowed our system to recover substantially," Kayes said. "We have some capacity now if there should be another rainstorm."
Grand Valley Road has been closed in preparation for clay diking to be extended across the road to its full height. A dike will be installed across Conservation Drive, and the dike at the corner of 18th Street North and Kirkcaldy Drive will be filled in.
The Assiniboine River level as of Wednesday was 1,175.37 feet, measured at First Street. The 2011 peak was 1,182.89 feet.
City officials are expecting the river to rise roughly a foot lower than the 2011 peak. However, the latest flood forecast from the province, released Wednesday, predicts a peak of 1,182.5 to 1,183.3 feet — potentially surpassing the 2011 level.
The crest is expected in Brandon between July 10 to 12.
First Street North will not be protected from the rising water, according to Rod Sage, the city’s general manager of operations.
"It’s my understanding (Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation) is not going to protect First Street, so there may become a time when First Street may become compromised, at which point it’ll be blocked off," Sage said.
Kayes said it all depends on how much water Brandon gets, but "if we get up towards the upper end of what might be coming, chances are there will be water on (First) Street."
Following the 2011 flood, there was a mutual decision made between the city and the province to concentrate efforts on 18th Street and Highway 110, according to Doug Struthers, acting regional director for MIT.
"Protecting … First Street is difficult. It takes a lot of resources and actually last time when we tried to protect it in the 2011 flood, the pressure from the water went under the road and lifted the road," Struthers said.
The infrastructure investment has been made on 18th Street, so it is easier to protect.
"By us not doing that work (on First Street), doesn’t put any buildings in jeopardy," he said.
The city’s dike system has been improved since the 2011 flood — they are now two feet higher than the 2011 peak. Kayes said areas along the dikes where there was seepage have been engineered and constructed to deal with the issue.
"The manholes on the sewer line that goes under the river have all been sealed and have been protected," Kayes said.
The city will close seven storm sewer outflows along Kirkcaldy Drive.
An additional 12 pumps have been ordered to deal with the water.
The city has 1,500 sandbags prepared and plans on making an additional 5,000.
"(Dikes are) higher, more robust, and of course, we’ve got the 18th Street dike, which in 2011 was a giant wall of super bags, so now it’s an earthen dike as well, and will be that much more stable," Decter Hirst said.
Public access is strictly prohibited to Dinsdale Park, Queen Elizabeth Park and the Wheat City Golf Course, along with the city’s various dikes.
"We are reminding people and strongly urging you not to move those barricades and drive onto that property, not to walk into those areas because those are dangerous areas right now," Kayes said.
He said homes and businesses aren’t expected to be directly impacted based on the water levels they are planning for.
The city has had to deal with overland flooding along Park Avenue East, the wastewater treatment plant and the airport.
Brandon is one of 41 communities in Manitoba that have declared a state of local emergency.
The declaration provides the city with a number of emergency measures, such as entering onto private property, ordering mandatory evacuations, or commandeering heavy machinery or equipment.
A public enquiry line has been set up at 204-729-2186.
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from Ian Hitchen
» Twitter: @jillianaustin