Rivers dam upgrades starting soon
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Three years after government officials feared it might burst due to heavy rain, the Rivers Dam at Lake Wahtopanah is about to finally be fixed and improved.
The first phase of work on the dam is expected to start this summer.
In 2020, a one-in-one-thousand-year storm more than doubled the previous peak waterflow measured going through the dam, which led the province and Riverdale Municipality to worry whether the 63-year-old structure would survive.
When conditions were at their worst, approximately 12,000 cubic feet per second of water was recorded travelling through the dam. The previous record was 4,500 cubic feet per second.
Officials feared the damage that would be done if the dam breached and a surge of water was released on communities downstream, like Brandon.
But the dam held and interim repairs were completed in winter 2021.
In March last year, Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk announced repairs were planned to prepare the dam for future rainfall and climate change-related events, bringing it up to modern standards.
Earlier this month, the province placed a tender for a contractor to complete the first phase of that work.
Some of the existing concrete walls and slabs — where water from Lake Wahtopanah flows into the Little Saskatchewan River when the water level is low — will be replaced with new structures, vents and gates.
The tender documents request the winning contractor take precautions to minimize damage to the river’s bed or banks, and the contractor maintain a passage for fish. No work in the water will be done until after June 15 to avoid interfering with spawning season.
In an email, a provincial spokesperson confirmed the intent is to have work on the low flow conduit started this summer and completed this fall, while design work is underway for future upgrades to the dam’s embankment and spillway.
“The design is based on Canadian Dam Association guidelines and involves upgrading the existing dam embankment and spillway to meet current standards to ensure that the dam can safely pass future flood events,” the spokesperson wrote.
That future work on the embankment and spillway is expected to be tendered next spring, with work starting in summer 2024. That phase is expected to be complete by fall 2025.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark