Red River Floodway now in operation, diverting rising waters around Winnipeg

The Red River Floodway is now in operation, taking some of the river water around Winnipeg into the diversion channel.

The control structure was activated shortly before 10 a.m. Friday by Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk, who posted about it on his Twitter account.

The province uses the floodway — a 47-kilometre channel between St. Norbert and Lockport that runs along the eastern edge of Winnipeg — to divert some of the Red’s flow and maintain a manageable level through the city in flood season.

On Wednesday, the province said the level of the Red River in Winnipeg at James Avenue is expected to peak between 17.4 and 18.4 feet above normal winter ice level. The peak is expected to come between April 10 and 16.

In recent years where there was spring flooding, the peak has typically been in the range of 17 to 20 feet James, according to city data. The normal summer river level is 6.5 feet James, the city says. During the 1997 Flood of the Century, the peak was 24.5 feet James.

While no significant precipitation events are in the forecast for the next three days, officials are watching a system that is expected to affect southern Manitoba and the Red River basin in the United States mid- to late next week, which could change earlier predictions, the province said in a Friday flood bulletin.

The Red has already crested in some communities south of the city, the province says, including Emerson, St. Jean Baptiste and Letellier, and is near peak at Morris.

 A flood warning remains for the Red River from St. Jean Baptiste to Morris, at St. Adolphe, and in the vicinity of Selkirk due to ice jamming.

Other areas along the Red River from the U.S. border to Winnipeg are under a flood watch, where there is a risk of moderate flooding.

How does the Red River Floodway work?

5 years ago

Duration 0:24

The Red River flexed, puffed up its chest and threatened some properties in Winnipeg, but it has crested with little damage beyond some submerged riverbanks. The province activated the Red River Floodway on March 31 to control levels within the city. 0:24

Bracing for rising waters north of Winnipeg

Residents in the rural municipality of St. Clements, north of the city where water from the floodway channel re-enters the Red River, are being told to prepare for rising river levels.

The Selkirk Bridge and Highway 204 were closed earlier this week because of water from the Red River going over the roadway.

The RM’s emergency co-ordinator, Tyler Freeman, says with the floodway now operating, the community will be keeping a close eye on water levels throughout Friday evening and into Saturday.

“We’ll have people looking out — we’ll be in contact with our residents, just to see how high it’s going to be coming, until it’s time to react,” Freeman said.

Water levels are rising in the rural municipality of St. Clements, north of Winnipeg. Residents are being told to be aware that river levels could change quickly and drastically. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Residents along the Red River and Cooks Creek are being urged to contact the municipality if they have concerns, and sandbags are available if needed.

Freeman also said volunteers are on standby to fill more sandbags if necessary.

Though road closures are in place to keep people away, the municipality is cautioning people against trying to get close to the river.

“The river is a powerful force,” Freeman said.

“If you’ve ever seen the ice stacking up, it’s massive. It’s a few feet thick and the size of cars kind of thing floating around, so yeah, it can be very dangerous. So definitely stay away.”

West of Winnipeg, the province said a small amount of flow is being used to clear ice from the Portage Diversion channel, which diverts water from the Assiniboine River to Lake Manitoba.

It’s expected the Portage Diversion will go into into operation this weekend. Flows downstream on the Assiniboine will be limited to prevent ice jamming.

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