If you have paddled on the La Salle River at La Barriere Park anytime in the last few years, you have likely noticed the sorry state of the dam that holds water levels up during the summer and fall. It was built more than seventy years ago to retain water to irrigate crops, but a succession of floods have progressively damaged and weakened the structure to the point where it is no longer safe.
Showing its Age!
The Provincial engineers made some attempts to shore up the structure, but the next big flood left their safety fencing in a twisted tattered mess. If you visited the park last summer, you would have seen how duckweed collects above the dam, further blocking the flow.
Paddle Manitoba recently heard that after several years of discussion and design that this fall construction will begin to replace the dam. Although the cheapest option would have been to remove it entirely the benefits to paddlers and other users were enough to justify a new structure.
The original walkway across the dam has long gone
Instead of a concrete dam, the plan is to build a more gradually sloping rock weir incorporating a fish ladder that will allow fish to swim from the Red River upstream to spawn. This may also help to reduce the number of fish congregating below the dam, making it less attractive to fisher-folk and perhaps minimizing the amount of garbage left.
The more natural pattern of flow over the weir should also decrease the number of trees getting hung up above the dam, although they will, of course, continue to block the bridge. A floating boom will stretch across the upstream side of the weir during summer to deter boaters from getting too close to the weir.
The finished dam will be an aesthetic improvement over the current structure, but there will be a minor downside for paddlers. The new weir will extend upstream by approximately 30m more than the existing dam, so paddlers will have to carry their boats a bit farther from the roadway to launch. It may, in fact, be as easy to park at the top of the hill and come down across the park to reach the water's edge.