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Regaining Control of the Water Levels in the South Whiteshell

Posted on: August 24, 2016  |   ,

All cottagers in the South Whiteshell have been sorely affected by the high water levels we’ve experienced since June 25th. Many, many have had major and minor repairs to carry out or pay for to their docks, decks, and boathouses. Many others to cottage foundations, to “floated” septic tanks, loss of or damage to shoreline, and all cottagers have experienced loss of access to docks, loss of use and enjoyment of water craft, and the list goes on.
At the WCA our lake levels committee has been working tirelessly for the last 2 years to reduce the risk of this from happening, and throughout this summer to try to mitigate the damage. Some of our efforts have fallen on deaf ears, some have been listened to and implemented. The rainfall in June has graphically demonstrated the importance of the issues we’ve been raising, and have given us all lessons that we have hopefully learned from and will not repeat. Having said this, the June 25th rainfall was not a “normal” storm, and may not be repeated in anyone’s life time.
A brief summary of the program we have underway is outlined below. It is a combination of upgrading of physical facilities available for control of the lake levels, and development of management protocols that will reduce the risk of losing control over the levels, and help to protect against flooding reoccurring. We have met on numerous occasions with our counterparts in both Parks and MIT to discuss the most substantive issues affecting the water levels – and we are finding cooperation on many fronts. We still have much work to do to extract sustainable fiscal budgets for capital works from these two, but the signs of a more reasonable approach are looking more promising with the new administration.
Falcon Lake:
Most cottagers at Falcon Lake will have noticed by now, that “we” (Parks / Sustainable Development, and Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation (MIT)) have lost control over the lake water level. The progressive loss of control has been evident from the lake level records going back more than 25 years, yet no effort has been made to replace or augment the original wooden level control structure (now 58 years old) – in the fall of 2015, MIT initiated a Planning Study to develop the preliminary design for an new water level control facility. In fact half of the original wooden structure was demolished in 2002, and replaced with a steel culvert of similar size, which was then compromised in 2006 by installation of a rock weir to reduce the movement of fish into / out of the Falcon River. During this time, annual precipitation levels have increased dramatically – an estimated rise of 60% between 1925 and 2005. Precipitation is projected to increase a further 50% by 2050 (S. St.George, 2006).
Management protocol used to operate the level control structure was not changed to try to deal with the higher precipitation rate until the fall of 2014 – following the last flood, when we found that the capacity of the Falcon River was exceeded by the heavy rains, and the drainage capacity available couldn’t lower the water level. Again in 2015, after a relatively uneventful summer (in terms of precipitation), we had huge rainfall in mid-November which prevented drawing the lake level down. So again (as in 2014) we came into the summer of 2016 with the water just below flood level. The rainfall of June 25th flooded the entire watershed, and again – consumed what residual capacity was available in the Falcon River, leaving us in a flood that has nowhere to go.
Increasing the capacity of the river is being considered, but the cost of dredging (even if Environment Canada would permit it) would be prohibitive. There is only some 6.5 ft. of drop in elevation from Falcon Lake to Shoal Lake (which it drains into) and this is spread out over some 20 km of meandering river with a bed length more like 50 km long. Beaver dams may be an issue in some areas, but with so little slope on a river traveling through a swamp, no individual dam is going to be much of an impediment. The only predictably viable means of increasing the river’s capacity is to raise its level at the top end – essentially replicating the conditions that a flood creates.
Raising the level can be done artificially by creating a barrier between the lake and the river, and using high volume pumps to lift the water across the barrier. It could be done by turning the south shore access road into a barrier (dam) – except that the biggest part of the problem is the huge attribution rate (inflow into the lake from the surrounding drainage basin) that Falcon Lake and the Falcon River serves. Most of the water that flows out through the Falcon River, comes into the lake as runoff – with a combined flow rate that is just too high to pump feasibly. Recall the water flowing over top of the south Falcon access road from the Falcon Creek and the East Braintree swamp – and it continues to flow into the lake through gated and ungated culverts now. This inflow is believed to be the majority of the extremely high and sustained attribution that Falcon Lake experiences, and floods the Falcon River as well.
Assuming that the Braintree Swamp and Falcon Creek are the main supply channel into the lake, the only obvious solution create a barrier by raising the South Falcon access road right back to the edge of the Town of Falcon Lake, and use the ditch along the west side of the roadway to divert this flow directly into the Falcon River, rather than allowing it to enter the lake. This would reduce the discharge rate needed to control the lake level and reduce the size of whatever control device is developed to “manage” the water level. Numerous hydraulic and environmental issues need to be studied and resolved for this to happen, but it is seen to be prerequisite to the design of whatever type of control facility is selected.
A diversion such as this would at times, cause the Falcon River to be a tributary to the lake. Preventing this from occurring requires the causeway to become a dam, which in turn, prejudices the selection of a pumped discharge level control facility. The WCA has encouraged MIT to make preparations for the diversion of the Braintree Swamp / Falcon Creek drain during the fall of 2016 to conform with MIT’s schedule for the development of a new level control during the fall of 2017.
West Hawk & Caddy Lakes
Both lakes benefit from the ability of West Hawk Lake to buffer large swings in stored water volume with a managed discharge flow rate PROVIDED that the lake water level is MANAGED to maintain available storage capacity within the normal operating range. “We” have learned this lesson from having been caught immediately prior to both of the floods of the last 3 years, having too much water in the reservoir, and having our ability to provide this buffering function compromised. Greater diligence in maintaining this buffer (operating the lake level) has been offered by MIT. It should be noted that the rainfall on June 25th of this year, exceeded the normal buffering capacity available, however the severity of the flooding would have been lessened had more attention been paid to achieving the necessarily low drawdown level during the previous fall.
The biggest factor affecting the severity of the flooding on Caddy Lake, was the hydraulic limitations of the tunnels beneath both CN and CP Rail lines north of Caddy. These constraints are outside the purview of the Manitoba Government however, both CN and CP Rail are being approached by the WCA with a plea to increase the capacity of these crossings of the Whiteshell River. Relief from these constraints will be expensive, and yield no return to either Rail line. Though we don’t anticipate immediate success, we are hopeful that their cooperation will be forthcoming within the “near” future.
By: Alan Roberts
Chair – WCA’s Lake Levels Committee

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Hello WCA, Here are the new items for today. - Manitoba Hydro released information this afternoon regarding the expected continued high water flows on the Winnipeg River (we have provided the link below and some of the key lake points). The Winnipeg River is expected to crest between June 5-10. Please see www.hydro.mb.ca/corporate/facilities/water_levels/ to view the forecast.- The shoreline adjacent to the Pointe du Bois subdivision has been included in the 100 metre from shore prohibition on recreational motor boat use. Whiteshell Provincial Park: May 27, 2022 A local state of emergency has been declared for Whiteshell Provincial Park on May 20, 2022 due to rising water levels within the park. Developed areas at Betula Lake were closed on May 21, 2022. This closure area was expanded (May 24) to include Sylvia Lake, Otter Falls, Dorothy Lake, Barrier Bay and Nutimik Lake areas. No person should reside or enter into the closed area. Please visit the Manitoba Parks Website www.gov.mb.ca/sd/parks/ to see a map of the closure. This applies to all cottage subdivisions, commercial areas, campgrounds, group use, day use, recreational and picnic areas, playgrounds, trails, and beaches with within the order area. During the closure no person should reside or enter into the closure area of the park. Manitoba Hydro released information this afternoon regarding the expected continued high water flows on the Winnipeg River. Water continues to rise significantly along the lakes that make up the Winnipeg River system (Nutimik, Dorothy, Margaret, Eleanor, and Sylvia Lakes as well as Pointe du Bois) as water moves downstream from Lake of the Woods. Water levels rise quickly in these areas due to natural restrictions along the river. Please see www.hydro.mb.ca/corporate/facilities/water_levels/ to view the forecast. Manitoba Hydro is predicating an increase of water levels from the current high water over the next 10 to 14 days, as follows: • 6 inches upstream of Eight Foot Falls. • 10 inches in Nutimik Lake. • 9 inches in Dorothy Lake. • 11 inches in Margaret/Eleanor Lake. • 1 foot in Sylvia Lake. • 8 inches upstream of Silver Falls. The Winnipeg River is expected to crest between June 5-10. Rising water levels and rapidly evolving conditions pose a significant risk to public safety. Manitoba Parks continue to monitor safety and water levels inside the closure area, additional safety measures may be applied if required. Manitoba Parks has been contacting all permanent residents in the closure area. If you have not been contacted by Manitoba Parks staff to register, please call the parks line at 204-340-6769 and leave a message with your name, lot, block, subdivision, and ask to be added to the permanent residents list. You will then be called back to register. Water levels improvement are being seen in all areas south of the Winnipeg River. Falcon, West Hawk, Star, Caddy, Brereton, White, and Jessica Lakes are reporting a decrease today. One log was also inserted into the West Hawk Dam on May 26 to slow the downstream flow, this change will take a few days to positively impact Jessica and White Lake. Manitoba Parks staff are working in conjunction with staff from the department of Manitoba, Transportation and Infrastructure to monitor lake levels and adjust control structures where possible. This includes monitoring structures for blockages. Crescent Beach seawall at West Hawk is barricaded and closed. Pay attention to signage, and barricades. The travel lane has been moved away from the wall and is narrow in spots, please travel slowly. Cottages in the Crescent Beach, High Rock, McKenzie Beach, and Hunt Lake subdivisions should be aware of the potential for a re-route in the event of further damage to the seawall. Sandbags for filling and sand are available for cottage owners at: the 8 Foot Falls Road in Pointe du Bois, Jessica Lake at the garbage collection site, the parking lot across from Brereton Lake Resort, the West Hawk maintenance yard, and the causeway at Falcon Lake. There are a limited number of pre-filled bags at the Jessica Lake and Pointe du Bois depots. PR 307 from the west park entrance to the PR307/309 junction, and PR 312 near Caddy Lake is closed to all traffic. PR 309 near Meditation Lake is restricted to local traffic only. We encourage everyone to check manitoba511.ca before travelling. You can call 511 anywhere in Manitoba to get updates by phone. Water is present on several block roads throughout the park. White Lake Block 4 is closed to vehicle use. The following block roads should not be crossed in a smaller vehicle until the water recedes: High Rock Road at West Hawk, and Jessica Lake Block 5-6-7-8. Caution should be used when travelling through flooded areas. The following boat launches are closed in addition to those in the park closure area: 8 Foot Falls, Big Creek, White Lake, Jessica Lake, South Shore Big Whiteshell, and Toniata. West Hawk and Falcon Beach Campground Boat launches have been re-opened. Public can expect open launches to be without docks, high water is preventing repair and placement of docks throughout the park. Please use caution and courtesy when boating. All boat traffic should be cautious of debris and items submerged below the surface. Please be advised that you cannot visit the closed area of the park by boat. Access is not allowed to your cottage or recreational areas via the Winnipeg River. No landing in the closed area is allowed. Extreme caution should be used with travelling the upstream portion of the Winnipeg River (Pointe du Bois to Lamprey Falls). To minimize potential erosion caused by boat wakes, recreational motor boat restrictions are in place. Recreational motor boat traffic is prohibited from operating within 100 metres of the shoreline on: West Hawk, Falcon, Caddy, Star, Brereton, Jessica, White, Big Whiteshell, Betula, Nutimik, Dorothy, Margaret, Eleanor Lakes, and the shoreline adjacent to the Pointe du Bois subdivision in Whiteshell Provincial Park. When exiting or approaching the shoreline, boats should move directly out from land and avoid creating a wake. The following hiking trails are closed in addition to those in the park closure area: the Marsh Trail (between Falcon Lake Marina and Beach Campground), TransCanada Trail at Penniac Bay, and Hunt Lake. All backcountry campsites in Whiteshell Provincial park are closed due to flooding, high water conditions and frequently changing portage conditions. Campers should check the Manitoba Parks homepage for the status of campgrounds prior to coming to the park. Several campgrounds have full or partial closures. All campground in the closure area will remain closed until this portion of the park reopens (Dorothy Lake, Opapiskaw, Nutimik Lake, and Otter Falls). In addition, White Lake Campground is closed (seasonal and nightly) and nightly camping is closed in Big Whiteshell Campground. Phone Numbers/ Websites:• Parks info line for water, flood and closures: 204-340-6769 between 8am and 6pm daily. • To report an emergency please contact the RCMP via 911 if located in the South Whiteshell, 204-348-7177 in the North Whiteshell, and 204-345-8685 in Pointe du Bois. • Camping Information 1-888-482-2267 for the Parks Reservation Service. • Environment, Climate and Parks General inquiry line 1-800-214-6497. • Highway conditions: Manitoba511.ca • Manitoba Parks: manitobapark.com for a list of other closures.• Manitoba Hydro Water Flow New Release: www.hydro.mb.ca/articles/2022/05/manitoba_hydro_advises_extreme_caution_on_waterways/• DFA Information: www.gov.mb.ca/emo/dfa/residence.html, dfa@gov.mb.ca or by phone at 204-945-3050. ... See MoreSee Less
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Regular weekly Hydro report for Winnipeg River LakesNOTE: this is a 7 day forecast, the earlier one was 10-14 day - so the numbers are different ... See MoreSee Less
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Winnipeg River hydro report(Our regular Friday report expected in about an hour) ... See MoreSee Less
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Posted on Caddy lake page (Dennis Dyck) – “ Found floating on Caddy Lake; blue plastic barrel. Still has both bung caps installed, so likely used as a float support rather than a weight. A marathon canoe with a # 32 painted on it. A 5 gallon jerrycan If these items belong to you please pick them up at block 9, lot 25. Thanks ... See MoreSee Less
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Sheila Dancho – “I have lost two sections of stairs that look like these. Please post to your page. Thanks for your help. Contact info 2042663066 Sheila Dancho from The Nutimik Island” ... See MoreSee Less
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