Future snow and spring rain will determine the 2020 spring run-off and potential high water situations along the Red River.

“Our focus is currently on the Red River, where we are expecting a significant inflow of water from the northern United States, but with favourable weather conditions in Manitoba, we would expect high water levels similar to last spring,” Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler. “The Assiniboine River basin and other rivers are expected to remain mostly in bank, with possible over-bank high water covering agricultural land.”

Manitoba Infrastructure’s Hydrologic Forecast Centre is modelling the current conditions with possible future weather scenarios. With favourable conditions, forecasters would expect similar water levels to 2019. Last year, the Red River Floodway was put into service but Provincial Trunk Highway (PTH) 75 from Winnipeg south to Emerson remained open.

Average weather conditions in spring 2020 would result in water levels similar to 2011 on the Red River, according to forecasters. In that year, PTH 75 was closed for 29 days. Unfavourable weather could lead to a run-off nearing 2009 levels. In 2009, PTH 75 was closed for 37 days.

Schuler noted the province has invested approximately $65 million in flood mitigation measures through the Red River Valley over the past four years.

Projects include:

  • raising northbound lanes of PTH 75 south of Morris and improving drainage (construction underway);
  • reconstructing the Plum River bridge in the northbound lanes of PTH 75 near St. Jean Baptiste;
  • reconstructing the Marsh River bridge on PTH 23 east of Morris; and
  • reconstructing the Little Morris River bridge on PR 422 near Rosenfeld.

The Hydrologic Forecast Centre plans to release a second Spring Thaw Outlook in late March. At that time, forecasters will have a more focused assessment of the Red River and will update the forecast based on the most current conditions at that time.

The Red River in Manitoba is affected by flows from North Dakota and water from the Manitoba portion of the basin. The river widens as it moves north, naturally flattens and lowers its peak as it moves downstream.