Posted by: Vicki Burns | November 8, 2010

Erosion on Lake Winnipeg – Natural or Hydro Induced?

Last week I posted a blog about the weather bomb that had hit Manitoba and the resulting storms on Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba. Some of the southern shores of both lakes had tremendous erosion problems and many people were blaming the Manitoba Hydro regulation of Lake Winnipeg for its problems. I wondered if that was too simplistic and didn’t take into account the multitude of factors that affect lakes, including huge weather events like what we just saw.

image of collapsed sections of baordwalk along a beach

Grand Beach boardwalk collapse after storm Oct 2010

In response to that blog I received a copy of this report on Lake Winnipeg which includes some historic factors that need to be taken into account when looking at the erosion on the lake’s shores. Its written by Dr. Harvey Thorleifson , a geologist from the University of Minnesota , who is originally from western Manitoba. It is very informative, going into the history of Lake Winnipeg and explaining the concept of the lake tilting.
One of the ideas I find most interesting is his description of engineers wanting to find an engineering solution to erosion by building some type of shoreline protection while geologists tend to recommend backing off and respecting the forces of nature. Dr. Thorleifson’s report is well worth reading for anyone who wants to learn more about this issue that’s creating such controversy right now. I have to admit, I tend to lean more towards the idea of respecting the forces of nature and learning to live with a healthy respect for those. Its clear to me that we can’t manage nature – we’re better to live in harmony with it  if we can.



  1. I agree with Vicki. According to F &O information on shoreline protection, any sort of man made barriers exacerbate the problem of erosion. Best to protact the natural shoreline whether it be dunes, rocks or sand and work with nature. We have had too many examples of Man in a controlling stand and he has never suceeded. Maybe the drained Zuyder Zee in Holland, but, that will be up for watching when climate change and melting glaciers pour more water in to the Oceans.
    The S basin of the Lake is rife with manmade changes take a look at aerial shots. Unfortunately only in recent years have people and goverment woken up to the damage that they have caused in the past, which is coming back to haunt us now.

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