Canadian Underwriter

Dam threatened by water levels in rural Manitoba, some residents evacuate

July 2, 2020   by THE CANADIAN PRESS

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RIVERS, Man.  – A rural Manitoba mayor says some people and livestock have been evacuated from his community because high water levels are threatening a dam.

Rural Municipality of Riverdale Mayor Todd Gill says 38 households in the Little Saskatchewan River valley have left their properties, after days of heavy rain in southwest and western Manitoba.

“It’s not only unprecedented but unimaginable, really,” Gill said Thursday.

“Never would anybody imagine what we are facing right now.”

Residents in the small town of Rivers are not under threat of flooding, he added. But Highway 25, the main way in and out of the community, is closed.

Over 72 hours this week, some areas have received record-high precipitation of more than 200 millimetres.

The province recommended the evacuations Wednesday evening out of an abundance of caution, saying there is not confidence the nearby 60-year-old dam can handle unprecedented flows of water.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said consulting engineers have indicated there is potential for a structural failure.

The rural municipalities of Whitehead and Cornwallis and the City of Brandon have also been notified of flood risk and the possibility of evacuations.

Some overland flooding is being reported for the Assiniboine River area, but water there is expected to remain below flood protection levels.

Gill said water in Lake Wahtopanah, which is on the Little Saskatchewan River, rose by nearly three metres between Sunday to Tuesday night. It is higher than it was during the so-called “Flood of the Century” in 1997.

The spillway is presently operating at the maximum level, he added.

“We need it to quit raining and we need the level to go down,” Gill said.

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