Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces funding for second phase clean up of Lake Winnipeg at a press conference in Gimli.
GIMLI — The federal government plans to extend flood mitigation funding projects, such as Shellmouth Reservoir and dam upgrades, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said after an environmental announcement at a hotel on Lake Winnipeg’s waterfront.
"Obviously we have to work out the details on this, but I am convinced that a little more federal assistance to permanent mitigation would be a better investment than the money we continue to pour into tragedies and disasters on an annual basis," Harper said. "We can work out something that’s advantageous for both governments but the primary response rests with provincial governments."
Harper said there is a cost-shared flood disaster relief program in place with the provincial government regarding repairs and remediation efforts from the 2011 flood. The federal government, he said, had indicated to Manitoba and two other affected provinces — Saskatchewan and Quebec — that given the scale of the problem, the feds would be willing to cost-share permanent mitigation efforts that were put into place "as a consequence of that particular disaster."
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Conservative MP Bob Sopuck, who is an ecologist, said he hopes that the federal response will include a water retention strategy, a key issue in the upper Assiniboine River Valley as well as other parts of his riding.
"I was just in McAuley country and farmers are eager to have dams built on these ravines to hold water back and alleviate the downstream flooding that’s occurring," Sopuck said.
"One only has to think of hundreds of small dams across Manitoba and hopefully Saskatchewan and Alberta and that would be very significant in terms of water retention and water control. There are some very real concerns about wetland drainage in Saskatchewan.
"I think there are some real solutions and I am eager to push for them forward come the fall."
Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Merv Tweed said he will be meeting with an American delegation about water issues in the near future. Flooding along the Souris River is an issue that impacts not only Brandon-Souris but also communities in North Dakota like Minot. And communities on both sides of the border are searching for a workable solution.
"There are lots of conversations taking place between the provincial and state governments and what I try to do is to meet with U.S. governors and senators to make sure they understand we are an ally in this and are working to not just improve their situation but ours."
Tweed said attitudes are changing. Where first, American officials sometimes saw it as a Canadian problem to solve, the 2011 flood demonstrated that the issue also impacts Americans as well, Tweed said.
"We are trying to work with Saskatchewan too to get a better management of our water systems so we don’t get big floods in dry years like we are seeing now," Tweed said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 3, 2012