Red River Needs Dredging (Canada)

Don’t expect to see dredging machines deepening the Red River any time soon, a Manitoba Conservative MP said Tuesday.

Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan said despite calls to dredge the river to aid boat navigation and speed up the breakup of spring ice, digging out the bottom of the river in shallow spots would be expensive and possibly an environmental nightmare.

Bezan said it’s possible contaminants like phosphorus and nitrogen are trapped in the river’s sediment and that dredging could release them into Lake Winnipeg, already plagued by bluegreen algae growth.

The other concern is the impact of dredging on the lake’s fishery, which has seen record catches for the past six years.

Bezan said some believe that since the federal government stopped dredging the river and the mouth of Lake Winnipeg in 1998, the river now flows more naturally into Lake Winnipeg, improving the nursery for fish in the south basin.

“Environmentally, it wasn’t an issue for the 166 years we did dredge,” he added.

Dredging has been promoted for several years as a way to speed up spring ice breakup on the river and reduce the threat of overland flooding. Selkirk and residential areas north of the community have been hit hard by ice and flood water.

Dredging became news again recently with the July 29 grounding of the MS River Rouge riverboat about 12 kilometres south of Lockport.

Bezan and Gimli MLA and trade minister Peter Bjornson toured the Red River and Netley Creek in late July, with the directors of the Red River Basin Commission, looking at where the river should be dredged first. Bezan, Bjornson and the commission met again Monday.

Bjornson said there appears to be a need to dredge the river at its most shallow spots near where it drains into lake Winnipeg, but the Manitoba government can’t do it without Ottawa’s help. Bezan said he expects an answer to the dredging question by early 2011.

“We’re not there yet, but definitely there’s cooperation there,” he said, referring to the provincial and federal governments and the commission. Options being looked at include building a custom dredging machine in Selkirk, a so-called “drag-and-drop” dredger, or buying a third, larger Amphibex ice-breaking machine that in summer months can double as a river and lake dredger.


Source: Winnipeg Free Press , August 12, 2010;