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Though water remains high, Prairie flood threat recedes

The Morris River continues to rise in Morris, Man., and the main bridge into the city on Highway 75 is under water and remains closed off by a dike, Monday April 25, 2011.

David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press

Officials in Manitoba are breathing a little easier as river levels fall in many areas and crests come in below the levels of the last significant flood two years ago.

Steve Topping of Manitoba Water Stewardship says the province's flood control defences can handle anything that's still coming.

"All the ice has moved out of our Manitoba rivers, which is one level of uncertainly we don't have to deal with," he said Monday.

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"Now we know how much water is in the system, what volumes we're dealing with. The flood-control infrastructure will be able to manage it now."

But high water levels in many areas could continue into June, Mr. Topping added.

Flood watchers in Saskatchewan also say the province is nearing the end of its flooding cycle. Most of the winter's heavy snowfall has melted. But they, too, are warning that water continues to rise on some lakes and it will take weeks for it to clear.

"I expect in a week or so … most of the snow will be gone except in the Cypress Hills" in southwestern Saskatchewan, said John Fahlman of the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.

However, members of one Manitoba First Nation south of Winnipeg were still taking precautions Monday. Anyone not needed to monitor flooding was leaving the Roseau River reserve near the U.S. border.

Howard Nelson, the man in charge of the evacuation, said almost 800 residents were to have been moved to Winnipeg by the end of the day.

Steve Ashton, Manitoba's Emergency Measures Minister, said the number of people who have left their homes this spring across Manitoba is close to 1,800. But he pointed out that most left because of fears that road access would be cut and not because of any specific flood threat.

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Mr. Nelson said the evacuees could be out of their homes for five to 10 days, although it was hard to predict what water levels would do. However, the water on Monday was still almost two metres below the top of a protective dike.

Mr. Nelson said pumps were being used to get water out of almost 30 flooded basements in low-lying areas.

Most of those who have fled come from three first nations - Roseau River, Fairford and Peguis - although Mr. Ashton noted the widespread nature of this year's flooding has led to others leaving as well.

Mr. Fahlman said the amount of water in some Saskatchewan lakes has broken records this year. Levels on Echo and Pasqua Lakes northeast of Regina are more than 30 centimetres higher than a record set in 1974, swamping some lakefront homes and cottages.

"Echo, it's going to be weeks by the time it drops," said Mr. Fahlman.

Emergency officials were warning property owners to secure anything that might float away and telling boaters to limit wakes on the lakes to prevent damage to dikes.

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Across Saskatchewan, 23 municipalities have been designated as eligible disaster areas under the province's disaster assistance program and another 20 are in the process of being approved.

The program provides financial assistance to property owners for uninsurable losses.

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