Amphibex machines deployed on Red River to break up ice
Manitoba government to release 2013 flood forecast next week
Though Manitoba is still gripped by frigid temperatures, preparations are underway to prevent river ice jams and flooding this spring.
The province's Amphibex machines were deployed on the Red River north of Selkirk, Man., on Wednesday.
The machines, which are typically deployed in mid-February, break up ice to prevent jams and flooding later in the season.
"Our intention this year is to break ice and cut ice from the Selkirk bridge all the way to Lake Winnipeg," Steve Topping of the provincial Infrastructure and Transportation Department's water management division told reporters on Wednesday.
Premier Greg Selinger said the province deployed ice-cutting machines a week prior to the Amphibex deployment in order to help with a thick pack of ice.
Topping said the thickness of ice on the river is a concern this year. The ice is measuring about 76 centimetres thick in some places, compared to 60 centimetres last year, he said.
"If you have a big flood and a rapid rise of water, and you've got solid ice resisting that water-level rise, it's ingredients for a significant ice jam," he said.
Breezy Point resident concerned
In 2009, a major ice jam near Breezy Point sent water over the banks and onto properties. Sandbaggers had to work quickly to protect residents.
"When the ice jammed, it was about four inches from the peak of this shed," said Breezy Point resident Albert Makara.
The province's 2013 flood forecast is expected to be released next week, and residents like Makara are waiting with bated breath.
"I’m starting to wonder about that now. We’re not protected," said Makara.
Across the river, homes are protected with a dike. His home is not.
And Makara said the city’s Amphibex machines aren’t the solution. He would rather see the province take a different approach.
"Dredge out this river. You’ll never get an ice jam. All the people around here will have nothing to worry about," said Makara.
But Selinger said the Amphibex program does work.
"It will make a bigger difference in the ability to manage what may come this spring in terms of ice break up," he said.
The Manitoba government has been using Amphibex icebreakers since 2006. It currently has a fleet of four machines, plus seven ice cutters at its disposal.