Manitobans who refuse to obey evacuation orders during natural disasters, such as floods, could be arrested if new legislation is passed.

Manitoba's NDP government introduced a bill on Wednesday that would give the province the power to arrest individuals who ignore evacuation orders during a flood.

The bill also proposes allowing the government to recoup the costs of rescuing those who have refused evacuation orders.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton, who introduced the bill, said the changes would prevent a repeat of an incident from the flood of 2009, when some residents north of Winnipeg refused to leave and had to be rescued from the roofs of their homes.

"That put our emergency responders at risk, and it also put the individuals at risk," Ashton told reporters in Winnipeg.

"We brought in provisions that will allow us to ensure that that doesn't happen and, in some cases, even the ability to take people into custody."

Ashton said the proposed legislation also allows for fines of up to $10,000 for people who block the operation of a flood control structure.

Diversion protesters picked wrong spot, says expert

On Monday, a group of farmers delayed the operation of the Portage Diversion for about 12 hours by holding a protest at the structure.

The protest ended after the province obtained a court order to remove the protesters, and the group agreed to leave in exchange for a meeting.

Jay Doering, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Manitoba, said the province was put in a "pretty precarious situation where you've got people that have parked themselves in the middle of the diversion, you've got water coming into the reservoir, [and] you can't divert it."

'You've got people that have parked themselves in the middle of the diversion, you've got water coming into the reservoir, (and) you can't divert it' —Jay Doering

Doering said the province had to act because the ice further upstream on the Assiniboine  River posed a danger to the control structure and the dikes.

He said it was "not the best place to hold the protest."

The NDP came under fire in the Manitoba legislature on Tuesday from the opposition Tories for getting the court injunction.

But Doering said it was "completely necessary" to operate the diversion, and in fact, the province should have been able to operate it when it had planned to do so, some 12 hours earlier.

That's the amount of time Steve Ashton, the minister responsible for flood management in Manitoba, said the protesters delayed the operation of the diversion.

Doering said he checked the government's data.

"You could see the flows coming in. They needed to begin to divert those flows in order to keep the flows on the lower Assiniboine at about 5000 cfs (cubic feet per second) to ensure that they get all the ice off."