Province played a role in 2011 Lake Manitoba flooding, judge rules

·2 min read

A Manitoba judge has deemed that the province played a role in severe flooding back in 2011 that destroyed homes and forced evacuations along Lake Manitoba.

Last Friday Manitoba's Court of Queen Bench Justice Joan McKelvey found the Manitoba government’s decision in 2011 to intentionally divert water from the Assiniboine River into Lake Manitoba through the Portage Diversion, as a way to protect the city of Winnipeg from flooding, played a part in flooding and destruction that took place.

Although the judge stated she believes high precipitation that year also contributed to the flooding, she said the province’s decision to intentionally divert water into the lake was a factor.

"It is only reasonable to conclude that the inflow of 4.7 million acre-feet of water into Lake Manitoba, which significantly raised the lake level, served to create the scenario of destruction that transpired," McKelvey wrote in her ruling.

"The operation of the Portage Diversion is a direct and substantial cause of the flooding conditions and consequent flooding and property damage on Lake Manitoba."

On May 31, 2011, Lake Manitoba was already dealing with high water levels when a major storm that brought winds of up to 90 km/h caused major damage to homes and cottages in areas including Twin Lakes Beach, St. Laurent, and Delta Beach.

In 2013, several property owners launched a class-action lawsuit against the province, alleging it failed to properly compensate property owners affected by the flooding.

The Portage Diversion, also known as the Assiniboine River Floodway, is a water control structure on the Assiniboine River near Portage la Prairie, consisting of two gates that divert some of the flow of water in the Assiniboine River to a 29 km long diversion channel that empties into Lake Manitoba near Delta Beach.

The diversion helps to prevent flooding on the Assiniboine River downriver from the diversion, including in Winnipeg where the Assiniboine River meets the Red River.

As a result of the flooding in 2011 more than 7,000 people, many of them from First Nations communities were also displaced from their homes and several communities, including Lake St. Martin First Nation, were evacuated.

To this day some of those displaced people haven’t returned home.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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