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Impassable roads in Manitoba hurt economy

Premier Greg Selinger got a bird's eye view on Monday
Premier Greg Selinger got a bird's eye view on Monday

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

April 19, 2011 — Floodwaters have forced hundreds of roads in Manitoba to close. Highway 75 was shut down on Monday and the trucking industry expects to feel the pinch.

The red indicates all of the road closures. Courtesy: Government of Manitoba
The red indicates all of the road closures. Courtesy: Government of Manitoba

Travel across Manitoba is next to impossible in many areas as floodwaters submerge several roadways.

On Monday, the main road linking Winnipeg to the U.S. was shut down. Rising floodwaters near Highway 75 gave government officials no other choice but to limit access in the area. While necessary, this closure is expected to cost Manitoba's trucking industry thousands of dollars.

Daily detours and load restrictions will greatly impact the town of Morris, as the community relies on the traffic through the area. The extra travel will add to the transportation costs as well.

The region experienced a similar setback during the 2009 flood. Highway 75 was closed for 35 days and the Manitoba Trucking Association said the closure added $1.5 million a week to the cost of trucking goods between Canada and the U.S.

Manitoba's emergency services minister Steve Ashton says he's confident something can be done to cut the number of days Highway 75 is shut down.

However, there's nothing they can do that will entirely eliminate road closures during severe floods.

There has been talk for several years regarding projects to handle the ongoing issue, including raising the bridge at Morris and diverting the Morris River.

Hundreds of roads closed across the Prairies
Hundreds of roads closed across the Prairies

The significant spring flood has forced around 700 people to leave their homes, most of which left as a precautionary measure. As of Monday, provincial officials said only six houses have actually been flooded.

So far, most flood protection systems including river diversions and dikes have done their job. Premier Greg Selinger took to the skies for a bird's eye view of the situation and says people are working around the clock to prevent any significant damage.

“We're monitoring them all the time right now and if there's any secondary dikes that are required because there is a sand seam or there's any possibility of it going over the top, there will be additional diking put in place,” assures Selinger. “15 million dollars, 70 km of dikes, it's very clearly outlined from the air. You can see there's been a lot of protection provided in the valley here.”

Authorities announced on Monday that the Red River is now free of ice, but that doesn't mean the battle with the flood season is over. Both the Red and the Assiniboine Rivers could crest sometime between April 27th and May 3rd.

Ice jams along the Assiniboine on Sunday caused water surges and breached dikes between Poplar Point and Baie St. Paul Bridge. Two families were evacuated.

With files from The Canadian Press and Jill Colton

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