Manitoba has an abundant supply of surface water with many large lakes and thousands of smaller ones (chapter 2). However, much of the water is in the north or drains to the north where there is a sparse population. In the south dams and reservoirs have been constructed to conserve water in some areas, whereas in other places projects were designed to drain water from the land to make it suitable for cultivation. The province’s rivers offered enormous potential for hydroelectric power, much of which has now been exploited, starting with a small-scale project on the Little Saskatchewan River and progressing to large projects on the Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Nelson rivers. Two thermal power stations at Brandon and Selkirk on the Assiniboine and Red rivers illustrate the need for an assurred water supply. Flooding has been a problem since the earliest days of the province, especially along the Assiniboine and Red rivers culminating in the 1997 “Flood of the Century” in the Red RiverValley. Dams, diversions and ring dikes are used to divert the floodwaters to less critical areas.
16.44: Flooding at Brandon in 1955
The City of Brandon has a history of flooding dating from its earliest days; the original location of the settlement at GrandValley just off the photo to the east was flooded in 1881 and 1882. Soon after, residents either abandoned their homes or moved businesses to the new site of Brandon selected by the CPR on the dry south side of the river 1.[i] The present city is located partly in the Assiniboine Spillway, which has a steep north side (known locally as the North Hill) 2 and a more gentle south side. As the spillway floor is susceptible to flooding, most residential and commercial development is now located outside this area, mainly to the south 3. In 1955 there was little development north of the river 4, but the situation has changed dramatically in recent years.
The photo shows the situation on May 18, 1955 at which time most of the spillway floor was flooded. Floodwaters 5 appear a light-grey tone because they are sediment laden. In some places the AssiniboineRiver channel can be seen 6, outlined by woodland 7, but in others the channel is difficult to locate 8. Flood waters are bounded by roads and dikes in several locations: 1) in the northwest, floodwaters are delimited by a dike 9; 2) further east the Grand Valley Road 10, which misleadingly does not lead to the old settlement of Grand Valley east of the present city, marks the northern extent of floodwaters; 3) further east Manitoba Avenue hinders the northward spread 11; 4) First Street 12, which curves around a meander, stops water spreading east; and 5) south of the river a dike between 26th Street and 3rd Street 13[ii] protects land to the south. In this protected area a former branch of the river (locally called The Snye) 14 is marked by dark-toned water, dark because it is not moving and therefore not sediment laden. The floodwaters are constricted between the Grand Valley Road 10 and the southern dike 15 increasing the flood water level to the west.
Other points of note on this photo are 1) very few residences exist in the flooded area; 2) 18th Street was flooded at the time 16, so entrance into the city from the north was restricted to First Street 17; 3) in 1955 most residential and commercial development was located on the gentle south side of the spillway 18; 4) the two railway lines CP 19 and CN 20 both avoid the flooded area; and 5) part of a golf course is seen in the west 21; about 9 holes are visible, the rest are on the flood plain and therefore inundated 22.
Figure 16.44: Flooding at Brandon in 1955
Air photograph: A15215-145
Flight height: 17,940 feet a.s.l.; lens focal length: 152.60 mm
Scale: 1:31,700 (approx.)
Date: May 18, 1955
Location: Township 10; Ranges 18 and 19WI
Map sheets: 1:250,000 62G Brandon
1:50,000 62G/13 Brandon
1:25,000 62G/13d Brandon
[i] For details see Welsted J. “Brandon and the AssiniboineRiver” in Brandon: Geographical Perspectives on the Wheat City eds, J. Welsted, J. Everitt and C. Stadel. Regina: CanadianPlainsResearchCenter, 1988, 9-35.