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The Canadian Press April 24, 2015
KASHECHEWAN, Ont. - Evacuation flights are to resume today at a First Nations community in Northern Ontario that is threatened by flooding.
Chief Derek Stephen says 600 vulnerable residents of Kashechewan on the western shore of James Bay are the first to be evacuated.
Three flights left Thursday carrying people to safety in Kapuskasing, about 325 kilometres to the southwest.
All 1,900 residents will leave within the next week, although 15 to 20 people will remain behind to keep an eye on the town and its precarious dike.
Stephen says there's a "horrible risk" of the old dike collapsing. He says it's time to move the community to higher ground so it doesn't have to face this every spring when ice thaws and river waters rise.
This is the fourth consecutive year that Kashechewan has had to be evacuated.
Austin M. David, Leader-Post April 22, 2015
Some Regina residents may notice the smell or taste of lake water when they run the tap, but officials say the city’s water is safe to drink and will stay that way.
Photograph by: Cate Gillon, Getty Images
REGINA — Some Regina residents may notice the smell or taste of lake water when they run the tap, but officials say the city’s water is safe to drink and will stay that way.
Ryan Johnson, Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant general manager, said the odour and taste is a result of an algae bloom in Buffalo Pound Lake that usually doesn’t occur until mid-May.
As a result, he said, the only solution the plant has to minimize the odour and taste is to use powdered activated carbon to remove the organics in the water.
Johnson said the odour wouldn’t be detected by everyone, but citizens with a sensitive sense of smell may notice something a bit off.
The plant’s normal procedure is to use its 20-year-old granular activated carbon contactors that keep the smell and taste of the water down during the summer and into the fall.
When the lake water quality gets better closer to the winter, the plant shuts the contactors off and lets them regenerate.
“The problem is, we just finished regenerating them and we’re not ready to use them quite yet. And this hit us a couple weeks earlier (than expected),” Johnson said.
He couldn’t pinpoint a specific factor causing the early algae bloom, but said the lake’s water quality has been consistently deteriorating since 2011.
“The quality of the lake is getting worse, which means we need to spend more money to keep treating it,” Johnson said. “We’d like to see it flushed, we’d like to see the water in the lake changed over more often because that would improve the quality in the lake, but our treatment plant, for the most part, can handle most things you throw at it.”
Alexandra Paul, Winnipeg Free Press April 22, 2015
Winnipeg, take a bow as we give a tip of the hat to Earth Day.
A Winnipeg-based environmental think tank crunched the numbers in a city study that concludes we're good at cutting down water use and garbage, two key indicators of environmentally friendly cities.
Winnipeg's doing pretty well, the International Institute on Sustainable Development said Tuesday. The institute took the city's latest water use and waste profile and put the statistics under a microscope, as part of a United Way project to track well-being in the city over time.
"(Today) is Earth Day. To celebrate, we've taken a look at some indicators... to find out how Winnipeg stacks up," the institute said in a statement.
Over a 20-year period, water use per person has dropped significantly, from 341 litres per day in 1993 to 248 litres in 2013.
And while one of the biggest dips in a single year occurred in 2013-14 -- the winter when frozen pipes severely limited water use for some 5,000 households -- the numbers, indeed, show water use on a steady decline over the two decades.
"Over a 20-year period, Winnipeggers' water use has decreased 27 per cent," the institute said.
"I talked to a fellow at the city about the water use because it is a pretty significant drop," said Charles Thrift, who heads up the United Way project. He crunches the numbers the city collects.
"The No. 1 reason is technology, so we're looking at toilets, washing machines and shower heads."
We're also sending less garbage to the landfill.
"A lot of this has to do with diversion,'' Thrift said. "The city has put a lot of effort into yard-waste pickup.
During the spring, summer and fall, there is lot of leaf waste and things that did not need to go to the landfill."
We sent 249 kilograms per person per year to the Brady Road landfill in 2013, compared to 355 kg in 1993, down almost 30 per cent.
From the province's data base, the institute pulled out some air-quality stats. Winnipeg's level of ground level ozone is better than the national average, as expected, thanks to our geography.
"Winnipeg's level of ground level ozone, a common outdoor air pollutant, is below the Canadian ambient air quality standard," the institute noted.
Lower levels are linked to fewer hospital admissions and lower mortality rates. "The data is based on a three-year average and it's gone up and down over time. Some years you get more ground level ozone than others. But overall we're staying below the Canada-wide standard," Thrift said.
Air quality above average
Winnipeg's water use is down, we send less garbage to the landfill and our air quality is better than the national average, according to key environment statistics that compared 1993 to 2013. Here are some highlights from city and provincial data from the number crunchers at the International Institute for Sustainable Development:
Toilet use is about four litres per flush, sometimes even three litres, down from 13 litres 20 years ago.
Washing machines use about half as much water, as do shower heads.
Curbside recycling cut garbage collection by roughly 30 per cent.
As for air quality, we can't take credit for lowering pollution levels. That's mostly thanks to geography. The national standard for ozone at ground level (a measure of air pollution) is now 63 parts per billion. It was 65 parts per billion last year.
At city monitoring stations on Scotia and Ellen streets, levels ranged from 49 parts per billion to 55 p/b. Last year on Scotia Street, the readings peaked at 62 p/b.
Larry Kusch, Winnipeg Free Press April 18, 2015
BILL REDEKOP / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES
Cliff Trinder stands in front of the control gate at the Shellmouth reservoir in November 2010. He says the province’s flood forecasting is ‘abominable.’
The province has admitted it miscalculated the volume of spring runoff from eastern Saskatchewan this year -- a mistake farmers fear may cause up to 50,000 acres of land to go unseeded in western Manitoba.
Provincial officials stopped draining the Shellmouth reservoir on March 18, satisfied they wouldn't have to contend with any great flooding this season along the upper Assiniboine River. Their concern was if they continued to drain the reservoir, there could be shortages of water for communities and irrigation this summer.
But by early April, flood forecasters realized they had misjudged how much water was heading Manitoba's way.
And on April 7, 20 days after they had stopped releasing water from the reservoir, they turned the tap back on -- releasing much greater amounts than before, flooding agricultural land south of the dam all the way to St. Lazare.
Earlier this week, they upped the release to 4,500 cubic feet per second (compared with 800 cfs during the winter).
Flooding along the Assiniboine, downstream of the dam, is now expected to continue until the end of the month -- if the weather co-operates.
Steve Topping, a senior government official who supervises the province's flood forecasting group, admitted this week that with more accurate forecast data, the province would have kept draining the reservoir.
"In hindsight, with a better understanding of the inflow forecast, Shellmouth operations could have been optimized to provide greater flood (control) benefits," he said.
Farmers and ranchers along the river are livid. They don't understand why the government stopped draining the reservoir when the province's own forecasts in January and February stressed soil-moisture conditions were high and snow cover was above average out west.
Cliff Trinder, who ranches along the banks of the Assiniboine River near Russell, called the province's flood forecasting "abominable."
"They realized on the seventh (of April), the day after Easter weekend, that they were in trouble," he said.
"They cracked her open to 1,000 (cfs outflow from the reservoir) and they've been raising it since."
He believes agricultural land immediately below the reservoir could have been spared flooding if the government had continued to release water from the Shellmouth during the three-week period.
Meanwhile, the big discharge from the dam will exacerbate the natural flooding that is occurring downstream, south of St. Lazare. There, the Assiniboine is flooding because of heavy flows from its tributaries, including the Qu'Appelle River.
Agricultural land is expected to remain flooded for weeks in an area extending to Grand Valley, just west of Brandon.
The miscalculation occurred despite ideal weather conditions. Snowmelt was gradual and there was only modest precipitation.
Topping said increased drainage in eastern Saskatchewan in recent years has made flood forecasting more challenging. He also said the province's forecast models take into account temperature and snowpack, but not the effects of wind and humidity.
"Those are uncertainties that we can't calculate for," he said.
After initially worrying about potential flooding along the upper Assiniboine in January and February, Manitoba flood forecasters issued a rosy outlook in March.
Retired longtime flood forecaster Alf Warkentin said officials may have put too much stock into updated maps that showed little remaining snow cover in the area at the time they shut off outflows from the dam.
"Perhaps they did not realize that much snowmelt water was still sitting on fields and in ditches and was only delayed from reaching river gauges by cool weather," he said in an email to the Free Press.
A formal review of the province's forecasting efforts following the massive 2011 Assiniboine River flood found forecasters lacked the space, equipment and appropriate computer models to properly track runoff under certain conditions.
Progressive Conservative MLA Shannon Martin said the government has announced plans to invest in remote weather stations and new river-water measuring equipment, but it doesn't seem as though it's followed through with these intentions.
The 2011 flood should have been a wake-up call, he said, referring to criticisms of inaccurate forecasting that were levelled at the province at that time. "It's pretty clear that the government is basically comatose on the file," he said.
Martin also noted there have been recent changes at the top of the Infrastructure and Transportation Department, which includes the flood-forecasting unit. The former minister in charge, Steve Ashton, quit cabinet in late December to run for the NDP leadership. His duties were added to the responsibilities of Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn. And the department's deputy minister, Doug McNeil, recently left to become the City of Winnipeg's new chief administrative officer. "You have to wonder if this isn't having an impact from the top down," Martin said.
The Canadian Press April 19, 2015
People check out the ice jammed around the bridge crossing the St. John River in the Village of Perth-Andover on Sunday, April 19, 2015. A state of emergency remains in effect in a western New Brunswick community where a massive ice jam is putting homes and businesses at risk of flooding. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Stephen MacGillivray
PERTH-ANDOVER, N.B. - A state of emergency remained in effect late Sunday in a western New Brunswick community where a massive ice jam was putting homes and businesses at risk of flooding.
New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization said Perth-Andover was at risk of flooding because of ice build-up on the Saint John river.
Perth-Andover village official Dan Dionne said roughly 300 people were affected by a mandatory evacuation of low-lying areas declared Saturday night.
The Canadian Red Cross says most of the people evacuated Saturday night are staying with friends and family, but some spent the night at a temporary shelter set up at a local school.
The village announced on its website Sunday that the evacuation order remained in effect, even though water levels fell nearly two metres on Sunday thanks to the ice jam shifting further downstream.
However it noted more ice remained upstream, a situation similar to 2012 when a flood destroyed 75 buildings in the community.
"The flood of 2012 was a similar to this event, in that the water levels dropped (1.5 metres) over night and the next afternoon... we had record high water levels in the community."
The danger will only be over when all of the ice in the river has floated by the community, the village said.