Risk of spring flooding low across Manitoba

Flood forecasters say the risk for major flooding this spring is low for most areas of Manitoba.

Light snowfall and dry fall in 2017 leads to 'cautious optimism' about flood risk

Infrastructure Minister Rob Schuler and Manitoba's senior flood forecaster Fisaha Unduche speak to media about the province's flood forecast. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The risk for major flooding this spring is low for most areas of Manitoba.

In the province's first flood outlook for 2018 released Friday, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says dry soil conditions in the fall and below-average snowfall through the winter means the threat of major flooding is low across southern Manitoba.

However, Schuler says, the rosy forecast could change with the weather.

"Of course, while there is reason for cautious optimism, Manitobans know first-hand that significant winter storms can blow in on a moment's notice at this time of year and rapidly alter our spring flood projections," the minister said in a release.

The forecast says the risk of major flooding is low for the Interlake region and most of Manitoba's southern river basins, including the Red, Assiniboine, Souris and Qu'Appelle rivers and tributaries.

Schuler says  the risk of major flooding is also low for all lakes including Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis and Dauphin Lake and the Whiteshell lakes, and is currently low to moderate for northern basins including the Churchill River.

The Carrot and Saskatchewan rivers near The Pas are considered to be at low to moderate risk as well, he says.

'Prepared for whatever'

Schuler says the forecast means the use of flood management infrastructure may be limited this spring: The Red River Floodway is unlikely to be used, while the Portage Diversion is likely to be used for ice control along the lower Assiniboine River.

The Shellmouth Dam will continue operations to reach summer levels after the spring run-off, according to the minister.

Amphibex machines break up ice on the Red River near Breezy Point. (Genevieve Murchison/CBC)

But the frigid temperatures seen across the province this winter, combined with the lack of snowfall, has left the ice thicker than normal on many rivers and streams, meaning ice jam-related flooding could become an issue in some areas, Schuler says.

Ice-cutting Amphibex machines started working this week to protect against ice-jamming in the spring, officials say.

"Manitoba Infrastructure and its team of flood forecasters will continue to monitor conditions and influences along the province's watersheds as we move into spring and peak flood season," Schuler wrote. "While our government is encouraged at the prospects of a below-normal flood season, we will be prepared for whatever comes Manitoba's way."

The province will release its next flood forecast at the end of March.