Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Some people...

It’s been an eventful week. This place is a gong show. For the uninitiated, we’re out on the shore of Lake Manitoba raising the cabin.
While here, we’ve seen a lot of interesting things. Some make you go, “Ahhh”, and some make you go , “Hmmmm”. Then there are those who make you go, “Grrrrrr.”
Mrs. C made all of us go, “Grrrrr”. Possibly at the top of my list for, “Most disliked person of the year” award, tied with Steve Topping and Philip Mutulu, Mrs. C is one of those people who just need to find a problem, even when there isn’t one.
We called her son to see if we could set up camp on HIS property. It is an unused homestead, and was about 5 (or less) minutes from our work site. He agreed after no thought about it. I assume he understood that these were trying times, we weren’t out “camping”, and needed a break. Mrs. C didn’t like her son’s decision.
She came by one evening and “interrogated” me, asking what lot we were at, how long we’d be, how we got her son’s name and number. I expressed my gratitude, and asked her if she might recommend something her son would appreciate as a token of my appreciation. A gift card for a restaurant? A bottle of wine? “No, I don’t know what he’d like. I don’t think he’d like anything” Hmmmm.
A few days go by and Mrs.C arrives again. “We’re moving a mobile home onto the lot, and the septic truck is coming tomorrow, and the well driller is going to clean out the well, and Hydro is getting hooked up, so you have to leave.”
Note that there was no question mark behind my “really”. It wasn’t a “Really?”, rather a complete, “You are so full of shit” really.
It poured rain that night. The tents were wet, and we got to pack them up at 6:30 and find a place to go stay. She had advised us that the camp ground in town was “nice, and they have electricity, and water, and pump outs, and…”
Note that there was no question mark behind my “really”. It wasn’t a “Really?”, rather a complete, “You are so full of shit” really.
The camp ground hasn’t been mowed all spring on account of the fact that it’s so wet you couldn’t back a trailer onto the grass, and tenting… fugadaboudit. Sure, there’s electrical, but you can’t get to it without rubber boots, and the hook ups? Don’t think so. We booked the last room at the Motel ($75 a night) for the guys, and we set up the camper on a gravel lot. The motel price is somewhat opportunistic I’d think. I’ve paid less for more.
In the end, I hope Mrs. C receives as much grace and compassion as he deserves, which is to say, “none”. If my Mother hadn’t raised me right I’d likely wish she got the plague, but Mom said never to do that. As for her son, he did actually exercise grace and compassion, so I guess he either should be considering a maternity test, or he got those traits from his old man.
BTW, a week later, and no one has done anything on that property.

Folks out here went to a meetin’ a week and a bit ago. They were told that they were no longer able to sand bag. What they were allowed to do was to go put bags on pallets and the “professionals” from the Province would build the dikes “Properly”.
Nice. Perhaps you could just come and insult them…. Oh never mind… you did.
The “professional” sand baggers are chosen very carefully from the reams of over paid under worked Provincial civil servants. They go into an office of (insert some job here like , stenographer, or accountant, or professional dike builder) and ask who wants to go sandbagging for a day with pay. These are the “professionals” coming to show the folks who live there and have real dollars invested there how to build a dike.
Problem is, there aren’t enough of them, and they don’t come long enough, or often enough to accomplish anything greater than can be done by the people with a real vested interest in the work.
Now if you happen to be one of the “professional” sand baggers, don’t feel that his is a slight against you or your efforts. We appreciate you folks coming out, it’s the EMO folks evicting people and telling them they can’t go to their own property to protect it… THOSE are the people we have a problem with. Pin head bureaucrats in some office somewhere… chatting incessantly with water stewardship.
“Hey Steve. How high will the water go?”
 “816 asl”
“OK,thanks”, “I just confirmed that you can only build the dikes to 816.5asl”

 a week later

“Hey Steve. How high will the water go?”
 “817 asl”
“OK,thanks”, “I just confirmed that you can only build the dikes to 817.5asl”

a week later

“Hey Steve. How high will the water go?”
 “817.6 asl”
“OK,thanks”, “I just confirmed that you can only build the dikes to 818 asl”

These jack asses tell the RM how high they are allowed to build the dikes, so they keep going back to make them higher and higher as the water rises. Instead of building it to 821 right off, they like to sneak up on that number, believing that it’s cheaper to keep adding a foot at a time I suppose.

Can you say “gong show”?

The Province is SO inept. Imagine if this were a REAL emergency. Oh ya… IT IS!

The RM asks for military assistance… just for a week. The province says, “Ask the Feds”, the Feds say, “The province has to ask us”.

There is no “up side” politically to having a “state of emergency” declared around the lake. If the province declares a state of emergency, it could spell all sorts of problems for Greg and company… especially the inaction to the numerous “studies” of draining the lake. Seemed that after building the Portage diversion to “fill” the lake, no one ever thought about “draining” it, and there is no “clean party” to this… it’s been going on since ’72…. What was that? Howard Pawly? Sterling Lyon? Ahh… both provincial parties…(no, the Liberals don’t count)

Next post, watch the RM figure out how to get a siren installed, and the “Sudanese Security Forces” ensure law and order prevail out here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Safety first

Sure. I like safety as much as the next guy. I typically wear a condom all day, just to be safe. (just kidding)
We're working out at the cabin, getting ready to lift it. Beautiful day, calm lake, finally warm, we're tearing off the deck, stockpiling the old lumber when EMO comes by. "You have to be out by 6!"

Huh? 6 what? Why? It's beautiful out, and the lake is no higher than it was last Sunday! Sure, we had a sustained wind, the lake "moved", and the road was inundated, but that doesn't just "happen", it takes ALL DAY LONG, and then ALL NIGHT to move the water around, not just a few hours!

"I can't guarantee your safety, so all civilians have to leave by 6, you can come back in by 9 am."

Guess what? You can't EVER guarantee my safety. I could get hit by a truck driving home (unnecessarily) on Hwy 6., or get shanked on Ellice when I get home. I understand the need to ensure the cottage area isn't filled up with people milling about, given that trucks are driving by, heavy machinery is working, skid steer loaders are operating, and people are "professionally" sand bagging, (since the property owners aren't allowed to anymore), but c'mon... how "safe" is lifting a cabin when the ground is saturated with water?

This whole thing is getting out of control. Since when does a property owner not have the right to protect his property?! Since the "Emergency Measures Act"

8.2(3)      In the emergency prevention order, the local authority may require any party to do one or more of the following to prevent the disaster or emergency or reduce its effects:
(a) control, permit or prohibit travel to or from any area or on any road, street or highway in the affected area;

Ya, ok... so I can't use the road if you say I can't, but really , could someone tell me how this will "prevent the disaster or emergency"? Fact is, not allowing me to remain in my cabin to work 12 hour+ days will do nothing to prevent any emergency.

I do "get it". The road became inundated, someone "ran out of talent" and put their car in the ditch when they were all told to leave, and now we're "playing it safe". Why must life cater to the lowest common denominator? Why do we all have to leave because the people who were superfluous last weekend, and LATE to realize that the weather was getting worse, and waves were crashing over the dikes so they had to be ordered out... why are those of us who left 3 hours earlier because we KNEW it was going to happen... why are we kicked out on a calm sunny day?

4 hours driving... every day. The fuel is gonna add to this expense... and we are WASTING TIME, and NOT preventing the impending disaster or emergency, in fact, by preventing owners from protecting their own property, we are increasing the devastation.

We were told that "government employees experienced in building dikes" will take over the sand bagging efforts. What department is that exactly? How do you become "qualified", because I've seen their dikes. What was needed was a coordinated approach to building the frontage dike by all owners, which basically happened under the direction of ordinary owners. The most exposed places were left by the RM and EMO, and the water clearly ran in torrents through those areas, as evidenced by the debris left behind.

There are people out there in complete denial, or thinking that "it doesn't matter, we'll get compensated". Well it DOES matter. Some cottages aren't worth the effort, I see that, but those people shouldn't be able to allow the whole area to be subject to a non-existent or poorly built dike. Absentee owners, or those with empty properties have done nothing, and finally after last weekends big blow the EMO did SOMETHING on those lots, as opposed to what they did before, which was hope that in my spare time, I'd do it.

Not happy. We're going to piss away great weather, and when we get hit, unfinished, they can send in the "Urban Search and Rescue Team" a few weeks later to help us pick through our "stuff".

This is the best the NDP can do, "scramble" a team that can be mobilized in hours a few weeks after the event.

I guess they had to "study the idea" first.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I realize that the last number of posts might not be relevant or of interest to many readers, but sometimes a blog like this serves to inform family and friends of things going on. It's easier than mass e-mailing, since only those who care will bother to check it out.

Apparently, the cottages out our way have been evacuated as a result of the road being inundated with water. We left there at about 7 am and while the waves were coming in pretty good, everything seemed under control. The likely reason was that the road was covered, making it unsafe for most folks to remain. Some likely remained to inspect the dikes and control breaches. Apparently Lundar Beach had 4 breaches and was evacuated earlier , but much of their beach line was perpendicular to the direction of the waves. (and we are unsure if this is accurate).

We sand bagged until we were bagged. We stopped at about 36" of height, but questioned some of the other things going on out there. The RM, or the EMO erected "hay bale dikes", but started about 300' away from our property, leaving an open lot (two actually), exposed, with only an 18" tempory dike shored up on the back side with clay. "Why stop there?" we wondered. Or better still, "Why START there?".
Wouldn't it make sense to start at the furthest point?
Now I know that the ground there is lower, and saturated with water as a result of waves pouring over the beach head, but there were "super sand bags" placed at the road, just no one ready to drive them in and place them.

Many thanks to the folks who came out to help. In NO order,

John, Marie, Moniqe, Paul, Josh, Mercedes, Morgan, Mandy, Willa, and my lovely wife.

Many thanks to Les who lives out there and spends a lot of time organizing the "gong show", as well as the equipment operators, volunteer sand bag dike builders, the folks who load the bags onto pallets, the ones bringing sustenance to them, trailer drivers, and the like.

We'll be seriously considering lifting the cabin between 3 and 4' as a preventative measure.

For readers who were waiting for another water stewardship "slam", they did have a truck out there with a driver ferrying volunteers from the staging area to the locations they were needed. Always good to send a representative, but I would have taken the magnetic signs off the doors.

pics might follow... check back

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hey! What's that on the road?

"Umm... I dunno, lemme' get my Manitoba Anglers' Guide. Those are carp on the road." It's great that we can rely on a publication from Water Stewardship in these trying times. Clearly identifying the fish on the road, an unequivocal answer to a burning question, Christine Melnick's Department can be proud of providing the answers people are looking for.
Unfortunately, the lake is projected to go higher than they anticipated, and we read comments from Steve Topping in the FreeP like, "Topping said extra flows from the diversion represented about three inches of water to Lake Manitoba."

Uh huh. There are number crunchers out there who are far better qualified to tell Steve that he's full of shit better than I am, but Steve, let me say now, here, in no uncertain fashion, that you're lying, and full of shit... or pathetically stupid.There are ways of calculating how many acres the lake covers, how much water is coming in, how much is leaving, and how much water the Portage Diversion has added to the level of the lake... and three inches will be a laughable number in a while... but this weekend, it'll get you lynched out our way, so do us all a favour and stay away. BTW Steve, telling us no that the lake won't crest for another month doesn't give us a lot of hope that you (or Mutulu) have any sort of clue... you just a couple of clowns trying to muddle your way through this. Clearly you folks have NO idea.
The wind warnings are good too... thank you very much for telling us it's very windy and that is can result in high waves. RM says, "Captain Obvious... my hero! Always there when you need them!"
We got pounded this weekend. We started on Wednesday evening, planning how we'd stage the work. Thursday we gathered truck after truck of sand bags, stock piling them as far as the truck would take them, which is to the end of the drive way. My wife, my daughter and I schlepped bags most of the day, and my daughter and I built our proto type "cage". We heard about fights breaking out in St. Laurent over sand bags, and heard people were "borrowing" bags from other properties, so I joked about having to protect mine with wire mesh cages, but in fact, I didn't want my dikes to "loose bags" in the waves. If the lake wants my sand bags, it better be prepared to take them 50 at a time, as a unit. My first two helpers (who double as my two favourite women (Mom excluded)) had to head home that night, but Friday would be a "prep day" for me. I was going to make a path through the bush to make a continuous line of bags on a flat surface.
 With some help from a good friend (and a blog follower), r, as well as father-in-law on Friday, joined by my two favourite women (Mom excluded) in the evening, we completed most of the cages using 4'x200' of wire and 2# of hog rings, as well as loading them with bags... but the day went from leisurely, no panic, to out and out damage control.
Waves crashed over the beach head, flooding the yard. The sand path was literally a mess of soup, and the top soil became such a bog it threatened to hold your boot with every step. Eventually, the trike couldn't pull the trailer filled with bags through the muck any longer. We realized that the waves were also crashing over a neighbouring property, so we headed over to there to build up that dike. The water built up a sand berm to the top of the sand bags and easily poured water over, sending it running into our property, exacerbating our problems. Fortunately, we had some neighbours, (Thanks Blair and Mark), ferry in sand bags on their quads. We completed most of our dike in the day.
Saturday, the wind whipped us again, lashing the shore with a fury that moved huge rock I had difficulty relocating with heavy equipment. A railway tie timber retaining wall was torn (in one piece) from where it was anchored with dead men by the rocks and was now lying across the shore. we lashed it to the trees to use it to break the waves, and followed that by lashing old telephone poles to trees to try to stop the full force of the waves from hitting the shore. Fortunately I have a full wet suit, but the hands and head were still very cold. The rhythm of the waves had to be anticipated to prevent me from being pounded into a tree.
The poles and retaining wall come wave break did the trick... we won that day.
Mother in law joined us, helped ferry more sand bags, ( we had two trucks going for a time), and of course helped out keeping everyone fed.
Sunday, we tried to take it a bit easier... after all we have to go back to work Monday. I attempted to pump the water from the front yard, filled some ruts with muck, assuming it was easier than letting it dry, and actually set up some chairs and enjoyed the sun in the afternoon for an hour, planning where we'll set up a small fire pit, up out of the muck... if we have time at some point to relax for more than an hour.
There's a lot of equipment running out there... I'd try to get some favours near our place early in the day by promising the operators coffee with a shot of Bailys... it worked.
The road in is down to one lane in areas, and it's getting beat with he trucks, all overloaded, full of more sand bags than they should be carrying. The yards are all but destroyed, with tracked skid steers tearing up everything in sight.
A plane flew overhead today. "Ohh... maybe the new paper taking pictures?", my wife said. "Or maybe Steve Ashton with Christine Melnick." I quipped.
My helpers ((who double as my two favourite women) Mom excluded) dozed off on the drive home... as I wanted to. We're tired, and are amazed at the folks out there doing this every day. Sure, they pace themselves, likely not slogging it out in the lake and sand bagging for a 10 hour stretch, but even 6 hours of this sort of work, every day, will give your aches aches.
My sympathies to those at Delta, Twin, St. Laurent, and Johnson Beaches.

It's scary to hear that Steve Topping is being asked for ideas about how to prevent this again in the future, coming up with ideas used on oceans to break the waves. Umm Steve... stop helping. I built ABOVE the required level of 817'asl, and you're now projecting a lake height of 816.3'asl?  Please Steve... you've proven that your department is inept... stop helping.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Daddy, where do sand bags come from?

"Well, when a woven polyester bag, and some worthless sand love each other very much..."
Umm, never mind. While unloading bags from my pick up, I saw the "bag made in Indonesia" label. That's where the money is. Making the bags, not filling them, especially if you're in the Interlake, 'cause these are REALLY expensive bags. They're made with "special" sand, probably from Birds Hill/Garven Road somewhere, and filled in Winnipeg. Yup, I was told that these "special bags" travel up Hwy 6 120km to get dumped at a Provincial Park where they are loaded by hand onto pallets to be trailered to the properties where they are needed.
I'm pretty sure someone out there can tell me what it's worth to send a semi-trailer on an almost 400km round trip from Winnipeg, but I'm guessing it's close to $1000. Lets just say I'm wrong, and the Province has a super deal going... $500? At the low low price of $500, it would take 70 trailers full to pay for a sand bagging machine, and I saw no less than 10 trailers today. That was how many I SAW while repairing pallets and loading my own sand bags, not how many trailers actually came.
We're looking at about 4km of dike, an average of 1 meter high, needing about  40 bags for every meter of dike... high school math, don't fail me now...oh never mind, there's an app for that. City of Fargo has a calculator, so let's call 4km 13,000 feet, and a meter 3'.  About 400,000 bags. I say about, because some people are at 4', and have quite a "rampart" built to withstand the onslaught of a lake that's very angry. We'll get to the anger the lake has developed in a bit, but for now stick with me on the bags, which I think could easily top a half million in this area alone.
There was a machine working in St Laurent... I assume they're done with it now. Sand is plentiful, available almost anywhere nearby. I don't get it.

Pallets are in short supply. They take a beating, and we're using whatever crap was available. We repaired a dozen or so to keep the volunteers busy loading, since I have a few hammers in the truck and at the cabin... nails, crowbars. We'd pillage the completely wrecked ones for pieces and patch them up for another beating.
A bus full of High School kids from Fisher Branch showed up and piled as many pallets full as there were pallets available. Great help, great work because it frees up the people building the dikes to concentrate on that, instead of loading the bags onto pallets at a staging area a 2 km drive away.

Today was spent ferrying bags around, until the heavens opened up, turning the already wet, muddy yard into an impassible bog. The ground is saturated, ( given the level of the lake, and the fact that the beach head is basically sand, it's a no brainer that it's consistency is akin to a cool pudding or a nice mousse on top), and the trike finally couldn't pull the trailer with 15 bags (15x40#=600#) through the ruts. Then we built our "test cage" made of a 16 ga welded wire mesh. We built them 4' x 2' x 2' and held them together with "hog rings". I don't plan to remove these... they'll become a part of the beach head, and offer protection from the waves for the rest of the summer or longer if needed. Eventually, they will likely support vegetation, since the sand is up to the top of other similar height dikes already.

Tomorrow we'll receive about another 2000 bags delivered by a skid steer loader on tracks. Fortunately he'll pound through the neighbours undeveloped property. We'll build enough cages to fill on Saturday when some reinforcements come out.

The place is ever changing... and as I said the lake is angry. There were times I've enjoyed the Pacific Ocean from a chair in the sand under the canopy of my Airstream trailer, thinking, "This is the life, great surf, nice waves, falling asleep to those rollers crashing in, I wish we'd have that sort of sound back home. The same thing was said when we went for a beach day in the Mediterranean. No more... please stop.

The new lake levels have changed the depth of the areas near shore. We used to be very shallow, meaning the waves lost much of their strength before getting to shore. The areas that were knee deep last year are now chest height or deeper, and the drop off is far more pronounced and no longer a gradual slope, allowing the waves to land with almost all of their strength. Standing on shore, your boots get flooded with each incoming wave... there's no point in wearing socks.

On the upside, we've gleaned at least 5 railway ties that were "harvested" from the lake, a bird house, and a nice 14" BF Goodrich tire with enough tread left to...

There are folks out here who have been going at this day after day after day, many are older, living out here.

It's brutal, thankless, frustrating work.

One neighbour summed it up this way. "We stay dry together, or sink together".

My back hurts... I'm getting into a tub of hot water.