Manitoba to break dikes to battle record floods

Mon May 9, 2011 8:55pm EDT
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Manitoba will take the drastic step of breaking its dikes on the flooded Assiniboine River, swamping a vast swath of farmland in the Canadian Prairie province and displacing hundreds more people to avoid worse flooding.

Breaking the dikes on Wednesday at a spot west of the provincial capital of Winnipeg will unleash a torrent of water that will swamp 225 square kilometers of land, the provincial government said on Monday.

Flood officials said that while the move is a controlled release of up to 6,000 cubic feet of water per second, they don't know where exactly the water will go when it flows across the flat flood plain.

"This is an unprecedented situation," said Steve Ashton, Manitoba's minister of infrastructure and transportation.

Without a controlled release, heavy rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday in Saskatchewan and Manitoba could overwhelm temporary dikes and cause an unplanned breach that might flood a much larger area, Ashton said.

A record area of Manitoba is already flooded due to adverse spring melting conditions, rain and ground saturated from last year's wet conditions.

Breaking the dike will affect an estimated 150 homes and up to 2,000 people across the province may be out of their homes by the end of the week, the provincial government said.

The controlled release is not expected to harm well-defended Winnipeg.