IJC Releases Engineering Report on Winnipeg’s Vulnerability to Flood Damage


The International Joint Commission (IJC), in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg today released a report based on an impacts assessment study it commissioned as part of its reference on the 1997 Red River "Flood of the Century" from the Governments of Canada and the United States. This report, entitled Flood Protection for Winnipeg, addresses the issue of Winnipeg’s vulnerability to significant flood damage during floods of the magnitude of 1997 or larger.

The study examined the flood defenses, identified areas of vulnerability, and proposed options for reducing the flood risks to the City. In particular, it reviewed the major flood control facilities that currently provide protection for Winnipeg -- the Red River Floodway, the Portage Diversion, the Shellmouth Dam, and the dike system and related flood protection infrastructure within the City.

The KGS Group, the firm that prepared the report, found that in 1997, the Winnipeg flood defenses worked to the limit of their capacity. Winnipeg escaped the damage that could have occurred if the capacity of the flood protection works had been exceeded, or if there had been failures in one or more of the flood protection structures. The report concludes, among other things, that there is little margin of error if the City was to face a flood similar to the one in 1997 and that, to guard against a larger flood, the City’s flood protection defenses need to be improved.

Earlier today, representatives from the International Joint Commission, the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg discussed the findings, conclusions and recommendations at a technical briefing for media in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg intend to initiate discussion on this matter as soon as possible to enable an early start on strengthening Winnipeg’s flood defenses.

Efforts to assess the vulnerability of major population centres in the U.S. portion of the basin are being undertaken by U.S. agencies and flood reduction mitigation efforts are underway at several locations. Rather than duplicate these studies, the IJC will incorporate available information in its final report.

The final phase of this study, to be completed in January, will recommend the highest priority options to improve flood defenses that should be investigated in more detail. It will be released along with the final report of the IJC on the whole reference.

Following the devastating 1997 spring flooding in the Red River basin, the governments of Canada and the United States asked the IJC to investigate the causes and effects of flooding in the Red River basin. The Commission established an International Red River Basin Task Force to assist with the work. The Task Force prepared a December 1997 interim report that cautioned against complacency, made 40 recommendations for better flood preparedness in the short-term.

The IJC is a binational Canada-United States organization established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. It assists the governments in managing waters shared by the two countries for the benefit of both. For more information, please consult the attached executive summary of the report or, for the full report, the IJC International Red River Basin Task Force’s Web Site at: http://www.ijc.org/rel/boards/rrbtf.html.

Contacts: Frank Bevacqua Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9024 Fabien Lengellé Ottawa, Ontario (613) 995-0088