Red River flooding closes key Manitoba highway

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2011 2:25 PM

By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The main highway between North Dakota and the flooded Canadian province of Manitoba was set to be closed on Monday, but two nearby rail lines remained open as the province prepared for the Red River's second-highest levels on record.

Highway 75 was to be closed on Monday afternoon, the provincial government said. In 2009, when the Red River flooded at a comparable level, the highway stayed closed for 35 days.

The provincial government has set up a detour, but it will add 100 kilometers (62 miles) to a trip from the provincial capital Winnipeg to the United States, said Geoff Sine, manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association.

The cost of running trucks the extra distance is about C$1.5 million ($1.54 million) per week for the industry, which wants to see a permanent solution to chronic flood problems, Sine said.

The highway is one of the busiest in Manitoba, carrying a total of 1,100 trucks a day.

Rail lines owned by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific that run south from Winnipeg into the United States remain in service, spokesmen for the railways said.

The main freight carrier in North Dakota, BNSF Railway had four lines out of service due to flooding on Monday, the railway said.

All three railways are important carriers of the Red River Valley's crops, which include spring wheat and durum.

The Red, which flows north into Manitoba's Lake Winnipeg from North Dakota and Minnesota, is forecast to crest in Winnipeg around the end of April, the same time as the Assiniboine River, another major river that joins the Red.

Melting snow on top of saturated ground is causing flooding in Manitoba, with ice jams in rivers adding to the problem.

Winnipeg is mostly protected with an engineered floodway that diverts some of the Red's excess water around the city of 633,000 people. Flooding across much of southern Manitoba this year -- taking in a record-large area -- has forced hundreds of people to leave their homes and closed hundreds of municipal and provincial roads.

The Red has already crested at most points in the United States.

Wet conditions in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are expected to delay farmer planting, which is usually underway by now, by 10 days to three weeks.

(Editing by Peter Galloway)