Wet June spurs bountiful berries, flooded fields and sewage flowing into Winnipeg waterways

A wetter than normal June is being welcomed by berry growers but it’s causing problems for some other Manitoba farmers and contributing to more untreated sewage flowing into Winnipeg waterways.

Winnipeg got 103.2 millimetres of precipitation last month, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada, making it the eighth wettest June in the past 30 years.

“It’s kind of keeping everything wet from the extremely wet month of May,” said meteorologist Alysa Pederson.

In March, April and May, Winnipeg got a combined 166 mm which is about 150 per cent above normal precipitation for those three months of 111 mm.

Angie Cormier who owns Cormier’s Berry Patch located near La Salle, Man., is grateful for it.

A basket of freshly-picked strawberries is pictured.
Strawberries are big and plentiful at Cormier’s Berry Patch near La Salle, Man. (Josh Crabb/CBC )

Her 15 acre farm is seeing a bountiful crop of strawberries.

“The moisture and the weather has allowed for the berries to grow bigger and it’s allowed for there to be a lot of berries on the plants,” Cormier said. 

Cormier, who also serves as executive director of the Prairie Fruit Growers Association, said it’ll be good picking and good eating for all types of berries.

“It’s not just strawberries but all fruit – haskap, saskatoons – we are all seeing more berries and the berries are bigger,” she said.

Soggy, rutted roads

A wet farm field is shown.
Aerial footage shows a soggy farm field. (Submitted by Curtis McRae)

It’s a different story on Curtis McRae’s grain, oilseed and cattle farm near St. Andrews, Man., where the rain is hurting his crops.

“A lot of them didn’t get big enough to be able to handle the extra moisture,” McRae said. “They’re just having a hard time functioning because they’re just wet all the time. Even crops that handle moisture well are yellowing.”

Just getting to his crops has been a challenge with the soggy weather leading to rutted roads and fields.

“It’s definitely been a mudfest,” McRae said. “Roads have been difficult, fields have been difficult. Luckily we’ve actually had a tractor that was just available to have a tow rope on it all the time to have access to an extra pull whenever we got stuck.”

“So we’ve been getting our PhDs in stuck tractors this year.”

A tractor with tracks is pictured on a rutted road.
Rural roads have turned into a sloppy mess amid all this rain, making it difficult for some farmers to access their fields. (Submitted by Curtis McRae)

Moisture combined with warmth could lead to more problems with fungus, McRae said. The application of fungicides will be crucial, he said, but it’ll likely have to be done aerially by crop sprayers because some fields are just too wet to get onto by the ground.

Even if the weather improves, McRae said he expects there will be some yield loss but he’s hoping for drier conditions come harvest.

All the rain means more combined sewer overflows across about one-third of the city of Winnipeg, according to water and waste engineering manager Cynthia Wiebe.

“Typically the number of combined sewer overflows are really correlated to the amount of rainfall and the river levels,” Wiebe said. “So if we’re seeing approximately double the amount of rain, we’re going to see something close to about double the amount of combined sewer overflows.”

A woman is pictured on an overcast in front of a lift station.
Cynthia Wiebe, manager of engineering for the City of Winnipeg’s water and waste department, is pictured in front of the Aubrey Lift Station in Wolseley. (Josh Crabb/CBC)

So far this year there have been 62 recorded combined sewer overflows but that’s only for January, February and March. Numbers for April, May and June are still being analyzed.

“It’s always concerning for us,” Wiebe said. “On the other hand, it’s really important that we do protect all the people of Winnipeg from basement flooding and it’s how the system was designed when it was originally designed. So it’s not fantastic, but it is functioning as intended.”

She said work is ongoing to separate the combined sewer system and prevent future overflows, but it’s a costly and long-term project.

“Our current cost estimate ranges from about $1.2 to $2.3 billion,” Wiebe said. “Our goal is to have our 85 per cent capture, which is our licence target, by 2045.”

WATCH | Wet June gives boost to berries, but hurts rivers and other crops:

Wet June gives boost to berries, but hurts rivers and other crops

11 minutes ago

Duration 2:29

Winnipeg got 103.2 mm of rain last month, making it the eighth wettest June in the past 30 years. The wet, cool weather is helping some people but it’s causing problems elsewhere.