Fort Garry looking east from over Pembina Highway
Click on the above image to see my Flickr posting of this image along with photo notes identifying various landmarks.
On previous occasions, when I have traveled to Winnipeg to visit my parents, the flight path has been further east or else I have been on the other side of the plane but, this time around, I was on the right side of the plane on the right day and was able to capture a few shots of the highway infrastructure and of my home neighborhood of Fort Garry as we passed overhead.
Polo Park and Football stadium
During this visit, the Red River was still at flood stage but was being easily managed by use of the control structure in St. Norbert, Manitoba.
The City of Winnipeg was at the mercy of the Red River on occasion especially when Spring melt waters in the south bumped into still frozen reaches of the river as it flowed into Lake Winnipeg north of the city. The Red River is one of only a few major rivers in the Northern Hemisphere that flows north through a populated area. This direction of flow contributes to the flooding risk since the headwaters begin to thaw and increase in volume while the northern sections of the river are still frozen. Partly in response to concerns that a flood of the magnitude of the 1950 flood might reoccur and cause grievous financial damage to the now more expanded city, the government of the day, under Premier Duff Roblin, began a plan to excavate huge quantities of earth to provide a drainage ditch to divert a portion of the flood waters of the Red River into the ditch and around the city. The digging started in 1962 and was completed in 1968 and has come into play a number of time since its completion to prevent millions of dollars of damage to the City of Winnipeg. Opponents of the project dubbed the diversion “Duff’s Ditch” (rather derogatory at the time). I will admit that a the time I was a bit skeptical and shared everyone’s concern about the costs and taxes, etc. but the “ditch” (officially “the Floodway”) has likely paid for itself many times over since its completion. Of course, students, such as I was at the time, won’t get to have the fun of filling sand bags into the wee hours of the morning as a diversion away from studying for Spring exams but that is hard to put a $ on.
The control structure is located in St. Norbert, Manitoba and operates by hydraulically raising a concrete barrier from a structure in the floor of the river. This has the effect of artificially reducing/controlling the volume of water flowing through the structure and downstream toward Winnipeg. This has, unfortunately, the effect of backing up water to a higher flood level for those who are upstream of the floodgates and this effect led to many protests and much litigation at the time that the Floodway was proposed, being constructed and when eventually called into operation to protect Winnipeg from downstream flooding. The Floodway is designed as a ‘dry’ ditch so the waters of the Red River must be above a certain level before the barrier is raised. This is a timing issue since the engineers don’t want to raise it too soon or else they will be accused of unnecessarily causing grief to upstream property owners.
An artificial waterway during flood times, the Floodway reverts to a dry grass covered ditch during the summer months.
More Winnipeg images from other visits: Winnipeg blog entries