The Green Plan to save Manitoba’s Great Lakes and prevent flooding

Dauphin Kate StoreyDauphin, Manitoba, March 29, 2016: A Green government would direct Manitoba Hydro to reduce water levels in Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg by one foot in order to restore water quality and help prevent  flooding.

“Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba are in serious trouble. Water quality has deteriorated, shorelines are eroding and the fisheries, wetlands and communities that depend on healthy lakes are dying from artificially high water levels,” said Kate Storey, deputy leader of the Green Party of Manitoba and Green candidate in Dauphin. “We are calling on Manitoba Hydro to reduce water levels in these lakes by a foot. This will help restore the wetlands surrounding these lakes, which in turn will lead to improved water quality and reduced flooding.”

Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba were dammed 50 years ago to create reservoirs to supply water to northern hydro power generating stations. At the same time, Lake Winnipeg’s northern outlet was deepened to allow the lake to be drained faster in flood years. Deep water channels are now being cut at Lake Manitoba’s outlet. These outlets threaten downstream communities with periodic flooding and fluctuating water levels. The province had promised compensation for residents hurt by the regulation of water levels, damage to fisheries, fluctuating outflows, and dangerously changing river conditions but has failed to deliver.

High water damages wetlands, especially the Netley-Libau Marsh, one of the largest coastal marshes in North America. Damaged wetlands are unable to filter out incoming nutrients, speeding the process of eutrophication (the accumulation of algae which causes low oxygen levels and fish kill-offs.) Wetlands, water quality, and fisheries all depend on periodic low water to flush out nutrients, prevent algae blooms, and regenerate shoreline vegetation. Manitoba Hydro keeps Lake Winnipeg between 711 and 715 feet whereas it used to naturally fluctuate as low as 709 feet or lower. Without periodic low water the lakes are gradually filling with algae.”

”We’re in the midst of what climatologists call a wet period”, said Storey. “Hydro dams need a steady source of water but it is not necessary to keep the water this high. The Green Party proposes that water levels be reduced by one foot, at least until drier climatic times return. This will save the province from expensive flood damage, while helping to restore our lakes to health. Greens will also invest in alternative energy sources to reduce Manitoba’s dependence on damaging hydro electric dams.”