Operating Guidelines

The text of the operating guidelines below has been updated to reflect current names of departments and Ministers, to include use of metric values, and to include revisions to the Environment Act Licence. The original text of the operating guidelines is available as part of The Environment Act License 2691(PDF):

Guideline 1 - Normal Operation

1. Maintain natural water levels on the Red River at the entrance to the floodway channel, until the water surface elevation at James Avenue reaches 7.46 metres (24.5 feet) or the river level anywhere along the Red River within the City of Winnipeg reaches two feet below the flood protection Level of 8.48 metres (27.83 feet).

Note: The term natural refers to the level that would have occurred in the absence of the flood control works, with the level of urban development in place at the time of the design of these works.

Guideline 2 - Major Flood Operation

2. Once the river levels within Winnipeg reach the limits described in Guideline 1, the level in Winnipeg should be held constant while levels south of the control structure continue to rise. Furthermore, if forecasts indicate that levels at the entrance to the floodway channel will rise more than 0.6 metres (2 feet) above natural, the City of Winnipeg must proceed with raising emergency dikes and temporary protection measures on the sewer systems in accordance with the flood level forecasts within Winnipeg.  The levels in Winnipeg should be permitted to rise as construction proceeds, but not so as to encroach on the freeboard of the dikes or compromise the emergency measures undertaken for protecting the sewer systems. At the same time Manitoba should consider the possibility of an emergency increase in the height of the floodway embankments and the West Dike. At no time will the water level at the floodway channel’s entrance be allowed to rise to a level that infringes on the allowable freeboard on the floodway west embankment (Winnipeg side) and the West Dike.

Guideline 3 - Extreme Flood Operation

3. For extreme floods, where the water level at the floodway channel’s entrance reaches the maximum level that can be held by the floodway west embankment and the West Dike, the river level must not be permitted to exceed that level.  All additional flows must be passed through Winnipeg.

Initial Gate Operation with Ice:
The floodway gates should not be operated until ice on the river is flowing freely, unless flooding in Winnipeg is imminent.

Final drop of Gates:
To minimize bank slumping along the river in Winnipeg and at the same time reduce the probability of sewer backup problems, final gate operations, once the level at the entrance to the floodway channel recedes to elevation 229.2 metres (752 feet), shall be carried out in consultation with the City of Winnipeg.

Operation of Horn:
Operation of the horn has been removed as a requirement of the Environment Act Licence as of May 2017. The horn at the floodway structure will not be sounded before the first gate operation of 2018. For ongoing information a toll free telephone number should be established that would provide current information of gate operations, potential impacts on water levels and forecasts for the next few days. The information should also be included on the existing Manitoba Infrastructure web page.

Guideline 4 - Emergency Operation to Reduce Sewer Backup in Winnipeg

4(1) This guideline defines the circumstances under which the Minister of Manitoba Infrastructure (“the Minister”) may determine that emergency operation of the floodway is necessary to prevent widespread basement flooding and resulting risk to health and damage to property within the City of Winnipeg.

4(2) This guideline applies after the spring crest from snowmelt runoff at Winnipeg, whenever high river levels substantially impair the capacity of Winnipeg’s combined sewer system.

4(3) As long as the Department of Manitoba Infrastructure (“the Department”) forecasts that river levels for the next 10 days will be below 4.3 metres (14 feet) James Avenue Pumping Station Datum (JAPSD), the department will not operate the floodway control structure.

4(4) When the department forecasts that river levels for the next 10 days are expected to rise to 4.3 metres (14 feet) JAPSD or higher, the department will prepare a report that describes:

  • the basis of the department’s river level forecasts and its risk assessment
  • the risk of basement flooding in Winnipeg, including the following factors:
    • the predicted peak river level in the next 10 days
    • the length of time the department forecasts the river level will be at 4.3 metres (14 feet) JAPSD or higher
    • the risk of an intense rainfall event in Winnipeg in the next 10 days
  • the benefits and costs of floodway operation, including:
    • the extent of basement flooding and damage to property expected from various combinations of intense rainfall events and high river levels
    • the risk to the health of Winnipeg residents from sewer back up
    • economic loss and damage caused by artificial flooding south of the inlet control structure
    • impacts of operation on fish and wildlife and their habitat and on water quality
    • the risks and potential costs of riverbank instability that may be caused by artificial river level changes, both upstream and downstream of the inlet control structure
    • during construction of the floodway expansion, costs and risks associated with any resulting delays of that construction, including the potential average annual expected damages associated with an additional period of risk of a flood event that would exceed the current capacity of the floodway
    • such other benefits and costs of operation of which the department is aware at the time of the preparation of the report, excluding benefits associated with recreational or tourism activities or facilities
  • measures that may be taken to mitigate the costs and impacts of the operation under consideration, including:
    • minimizing the rate at which river levels are changed both upstream and downstream of the floodway inlet control structure
    • providing means to assure fish passage

4(5)  The department will present a draft of the report prepared under operating guideline 4(4) to the Floodway Operation Review Committee and provide an opportunity for the committee to provide input, before finalizing the report and making recommendations respecting floodway operation.

4(6)  The department will not recommend operation of the floodway unless the expected benefits of doing so clearly and substantially outweigh the expected costs.

4(7)  The department will present its report and recommendations to the minister who, subject to operating guideline 4(8), will make a decision respecting floodway operation based on his or her consideration of the report.

4(8)  The department will not operate the floodway control structure under this guideline:

  1. to raise river levels immediately upstream of the control structure to an elevation higher than 231.6 metres (760 feet) above sea level
  2. to achieve a river level of less than 2.7 metres (9 feet) JAPSD; or
  3. except in circumstances of extreme urgency, to lower river levels more than 0.3 metres (1 foot) per day.

4(9)  The department will issue a news release announcing a decision to operate the floodway at least 24 hours before commencing operation.

4(10) The department will ensure every reasonable effort is made to personally notify landowners who may be directly affected by flooding due to floodway operation in advance of the operation.

4(11) The department will sound the horn at the floodway inlet control structure one-half hour before operation commences.

4(12) The department will maintain a program of compensation for damages suffered by landowners arising from flooding caused by floodway operation under this guideline.