Manitoba to flood farm area on Saturday

Fri May 13, 2011 5:54pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Manitoba will go ahead on Saturday morning with a much-delayed deliberate breach on its Assiniboine River dike, swamping some homes and farms in the Canadian province to avoid a bigger, unplanned flood.

Opening the dike will flood at least 225 square kilometers (55,600 acres) and 150 homes, while taking the pressure off strained dikes.

"Our intention is to keep this to a slow, controlled flow," said Steve Topping of the province's water stewardship branch, adding that a dry forecast will help contain the flood.

Across Manitoba, 3,300 people have left their homes because of the threat of flooding, including 1,400 in Brandon, the province's second-largest city. About 100 homes are flooded, mostly on Indian reserves.

"I don't want to underestimate the amount of anxiety, the amount of stress going on," said Steve Ashton, Manitoba's infrastructure and transportation minister. "This is historic, unprecedented, a completely new flood of record."

About 1,500 soldiers arrived in Manitoba this week to help fortify dikes.

The floodwaters are moving into the province from rivers in Saskatchewan and the U.S. northern Plains that are swollen because of heavy winter snowfall, spring rain and already-saturated ground.

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger was planning a live TV address on Friday evening.   Continued...