A committee has been formed to promote a dam on the Pipestone Creek to create a large reservoir. The idea is to create a structure that will hold roughly 25 per cent of the water that Oak Lake typically holds. The Pipestone Creek committee has invited three Manitoba MLAs to meet with them as the committee seeks government funding for a formal study of the project.
Chairing the committee, Randy Henuset, councillor with the RM of Pipestone, explains that the dam could be useful for flood control, but says, the main focus is to mitigate drought conditions. “Our plan is to provide Oak Lake with a steady flow of water. The benefits are many,” he said, “to keep the water level up for fish, recreation, enhance wetlands and charge the ground water (aquifer).”
He says the Minister of Infrastructure Doyle Piwniuk, Deputy Premier and Minister of Economic Development Cliff Cullen and MLA for Riding Mountain Greg Nesbitt, have been invited to a meeting later in February, “to get the ball rolling.” It is estimated that a study will cost $33,000.
In 2015 the banks of the Pipestone Creek received some government money and attention, to mitigate damage from recent flood years.
Oak Lake is a fishing destination, but there’s concern that many fish will die throughout this winter due to low water levels. He says, “The amount of snow we have won’t raise the lake six inches.” He worries that it will be even lower by the Fall or 2022.
“Oak Lake is the gem of the southwest,” says Henuset. But if the water level is not kept consistently high enough, “it’s just a big stagnant slough.”
Just this past summer the Oak Lake Cottage Owners Association raised money to purchase a new aeration sprinkler system for the lake, but the shoreline had receded and it could not be installed.
Not everyone is onboard with damming the Pipestone. In an interview, a local landowner has stated concerns over potential flooding that a dam might bring, and hopes that work along the Pipestone would not be a detriment to wildlife that depend upon the creek habitat.
In December of 2021, Councillor from the RM of Wallace-Woodworth Barb Stambuski attended a public meeting held some weeks ago regarding the dam project. See the Dec. 25 issue of the Empire-Advance.
As Souris River Watershed District (SRWD) Manager, Dean Brooker sits on the committee. Presently also included on the committee are: RM of Sifton Reeve Cyril Druwe and Coun. Scott Phillip; Joe Goodwill councillor, RM of Souris-Glenwood, and chairman of the board for the Oak Lake Aquifer Management Plan; board chair for SRWD Lloyd Atchison; Resource Technician for Assiniboine West Watershed District Kayla Moore (Oak Lake resident); and Dallas Watt who farms along the Pipestone.
Brooker says The Watershed District has been working with the RM of Pipestone and Sifton on this project and on a possible HydroGeoSphere (HGS) model-based analysis of conditions in the Lower Pipestone Creek and Stony Creek Watersheds.
“The main focus of the work will be on the influence of a potential dam installation at Cromer. The model will have multiple possible future applications towards retention site analysis, land use change impact analysis, and climate change impact analysis.”
Brooker goes on to say, “The watershed district has received a quote for the HydroGeoSphere Model, but are waiting on funding.”
Henuset said that a reservoir project along the Pipestone was first planned for in the 1950s, with landowner agreements in place. However, the infrastructure money, said to be $800,000 at that time, went to the Asessippi Shellmouth dam instead.
He says a reservoir on the Pipestone gets attention in a dry spell, but once it rains, historically people have forgotten about damming the little river.
The proposed location would be just west of Cromer where a beautiful valley would provide a damsite. Based upon recent blueprints, Henuset says the reservoir wouldn’t impact the bridge on Road 54 over the Pipestone east of Cromer. That road is the border between the two RMs of Wallace-Woodworth and Pipestone.
Henuset says, “A lot of studying has to be done before a dam can be built, a lot of land has to be bought; a lot of things have to be done.
“It’s just a twinkle in the eye at the moment.”