Water around hydroelectric generating stations is turbulent. Strong currents, undertow, and rapidly changing water levels can quickly turn a dry riverbed into fast-moving water. It’s the reason anyone fishing or otherwise spending time around hydroelectric dams in the Lac du Bonnet region — especially spillways — needs to exercise caution.
“They’re a great spot to fish, but the fact that it is dangerous is something we want people to realize,” says Janet Rak, public safety and education coordinator at Manitoba Hydro. “It is a public waterway system, but the dams themselves are dangerous. One moment it might be shallow, but then once the spillway opens it causes turbulence and undertow and makes the rocks slippery.”
Stay a safe distance away from marked-off areas when fishing, boating, or swimming. Getting too close, or ignoring warning signs, can be fatal.
Lac du Bonnet and region is home to six hydroelectric dams bisect the Winnipeg River in Manitoba, generating a total of 583 megawatts annually. From east to west, generating stations are located at Pointe du Bois, Slave Falls, Seven Sisters Falls, McArthur Falls, Great Falls and Pine Falls. While they’re all a huge attraction for outdoor enthusiasts and anglers, Manitoba Hydro advises caution when in the vicinity of dams via either land or watercraft.
Safety booms mark dangerous water zones near spillway entrances. For your safety, stay away from booms (temporary floating barriers around dangerous areas) in waterways.
On both the upstream and downstream sides of a hydro dam:
- Look for and obey all warning signs. Stay on clearly marked walkways or observation points.
- Stay away from fenced-off areas: booms, which are temporary floating barriers in waterways; buoys, which are anchored floats in waterways; other barriers that prevent you from accessing dangerous grounds.
- You may have heard a loud horn or siren while fishing at a hydro dam. This is a warning that the spillway is about to open and water levels are about to change. If you are downstream of the dam, move away quickly.
- Keep your watercraft (or boat) away from either side of the dam or spillway. A sudden change in the water can swamp your boat and pull you into an undertow, or overturn and sink it.
- Never wade into moving water.
- Be aware of slippery or unstable rocks along the waterline. If you fall, you could be injured or drown. Keep a close watch over children and make sure they are aware of hazards.
- In winter, never snowmobile, walk, snowshoe, cross-country ski, skate, or ice fish on rivers near dams and generating stations. The surface may appear solid, but ice forming on waterways near generating stations can be dangerously thin, weak, and unstable.
For more outdoor safety tips from Manitoba Hydro, visit hydro.mb.ca/safety/outdoor/index.shtml.