A river runs through it

By Evelyn Rempel Petkau |
Manitoba Correspondent

River levels are changing daily at Camp Assiniboia as the Assiniboine River ebbs and flows around the south and east boundaries of the camp. Unprecedented volumes of water are creating great stresses on the dikes and diversions that lie along the path of this major Manitoba waterway.

David and Kathryn Hogue, who live at the camp near Headingly, Man., and coordinate and manage its activities, have never seen anything like this before. Along with many others who live and work in the Assiniboine Basin, they are being vigilant as they watch and wait to see if the ring dike around the camp can withstand the onslaught.

“We have been told that it is in good shape,” says David. “But these are unprecedented amounts of water and this will continue for a long time yet. We have to be vigilant and keep inspecting the dike.”

Although the dike is secure, there is considerable seepage. Three pumps work continuously in an effort to keep the seeping water under control and protect the camp buildings. On May 7, volunteers came out to help lay sandbag around some of them.

The provincial government decided on May 14 to breach one of the dikes near Portage la Prairie, west of the camp, because the river had exceeded its capacity, in an effort to prevent an uncontrolled flood that could damage more than 800 properties down river. Several communities and individual homes lie in the path of this controlled flooding, but the Hogues do not expect it to adversely affect Camp Assiniboia, one of three Mennonite Church Manitoba Camps with Meaning.

“We are not at the top of our dikes, but many in the area are,” says David. “We don’t know how long this will last. We still have [a metre] before the water level reaches the top of our dike, but the bottom half is already saturated and seeping.”

The Camp Assiniboia Forest has been severely affected by the flood, though.

“Where people hike, the beavers now swim,” Kathryn reports.

Summer camp is only weeks away and the river is expected to stay at a high level for about six more weeks.

“Amongst the highlights of summer camp are the campouts in the forest and the ropes course,” says David. “Also, the swimming pool is in a low spot, so the river is filling it. The repairs to the holes in the pool that we were planning for this spring won’t happen now.”

The camp staff may need to find alternatives for the ropes course and for many activities that take place in the Camp Assiniboia Forest, depending on how the water recedes and how quickly drying happens.

Some spring camp bookings have already been cancelled and camp activities are restricted.

“We go week to week and group to group,” says Kathryn. “Younger school groups especially are a concern because we don’t always know what supervision they have, and the water is high and moving fast.”

“Things change daily as to what we can expect,” she adds.

Volunteers help lay sandbags around the buildings at Camp Assiniboia on May 7 as the Assiniboine River began to rise.

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