St. François Xavier declares state of emergency as river rises

The rising Assiniboine River has the rural municipality of St. François Xavier on high alert and declaring a local state of emergency.

A flood watch is in effect for the Assiniboine from Portage la Prairie to Headingley, just west of Winnipeg. St. François Xavier's southern border is the river between the rural municipalities of Headingley and Portage la Prairie.

The community website says as of Sunday morning, the flow on the Portage Diversion channel, which diverts Assiniboine River water to Lake Manitoba, was 19,281 cubic feet per second. The flow on the Assiniboine River downstream of the diversion was 11,000 cfs but will increase today to 13,000 cfs, the website says.

The river flow is gradually being increased to about 15,000 cfs tomorrow and up to 17,000 cfs by Wednesday.

St. François Xavier Reeve Dwayne Clark said as a result, the number of homes needing protection has risen from seven to 35.

"So what we've done is requested about 30,000 sandbags from the province, so we're expecting those hopefully in the next day or two, and we're continuing to make sandbags ourselves," Clark said.

So far 5,000 sandbags have been distributed and a few homes have had dikes built around them, but more are needed.

"We need volunteers to fill sandbags first. We don't have the ones that we requested from the province yet," Clark said.

Earlier in the flood season, the province informed Clark it would not be making sandbags, but that changed over the weekend.

"That's what they told us initially, and I think from my understanding they began making some yesterday out in Portage," Clark said.

When asked how the river levels are expected to compare to past floods, Clark said they are having a difficult time assessing how big it will be.

"The province, they're not using those numbers anymore, the '76 plus two, or '76 plus three, or 2011 plus two, or 2011 minus one, or whatever they were using in 2014," Clark said.

"The number we're getting are the rate of flow, the cfs, so we're having a little bit of a difficult time getting the elevations we would need to have the sandbag dikes built to, but we're muddling through it and we have surveyors out there right now, surveying these properties so we can have dikes built to the proper height," Clark said.

Dike building on affected properties is expected to start in the next 24 to 48 hours.