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The flood’s toll

‘We’ve got roads that look like dynamite got them’

A small cut in Highway 21 south of Hartney to alleviate flooding pressure ended in a massive hole after the water ripped away the culvert and washed away the road.

CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

A small cut in Highway 21 south of Hartney to alleviate flooding pressure ended in a massive hole after the water ripped away the culvert and washed away the road.

It’s a cruel magic trick of sorts.

A spray plane dives at a canola field on Highway 23 between Elgin and Minto. Producers have been forced to go to the air to apply fungicides due to excess moisture.

Enlarge Image

A spray plane dives at a canola field on Highway 23 between Elgin and Minto. Producers have been forced to go to the air to apply fungicides due to excess moisture. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)

A van passes over a bridge between Melita and Virden on Highway 83, while a temporary bridge sits idle beside. An area resident said the old bridge moved during the height of the flooding.

Enlarge Image

A van passes over a bridge between Melita and Virden on Highway 83, while a temporary bridge sits idle beside. An area resident said the old bridge moved during the height of the flooding. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)

Town of Melita employees work to remove the makeshift dike on Highway 3 as floodwaters from the Souris River start to recede on Wednesday.

Enlarge Image

Town of Melita employees work to remove the makeshift dike on Highway 3 as floodwaters from the Souris River start to recede on Wednesday. (CHARLES TWEED/BRANDON SUN)

Inch by inch, as floodwaters continue to recede in Westman like a slow curtain being pulled back, the true devastation of the flood is becoming more and more apparent.

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Near Hartney, a washed-out road.

On the RM of Arthur and Albert border, yellowing crops.

South of Virden, a bridge moved.

The list goes on.

"We’ve got roads that look like dynamite got them," RM of Sifton Coun. Scott Phillips said.

Gravel pits are flooded, making it more difficult to resolve some of the problems throughout the municipality.

Phillips said the RM, which is amalgamating with Oak Lake for the October municipal election, has worked closely with its neighbours to share information.

He believes forced amalgamations are going to have a serious impact on how events such as floods are handled in the future.

"There are so many things that the government doesn’t see that save the ratepayer money through five-minute chats on a road somewhere," Phillips said. "And that is done."

Several councillors have been putting in more than 30 hours per week helping fight the flood, he said.

"The amount of hours we put in checking roads and putting up signs, and then someone knocks it down in the night and you’re back out there in the morning, but you’d hate to have something happen."

Phillips’ RM is one of the most vulnerable in Westman, getting hammered from every direction — be it the Souris and Assiniboine rivers or the Pipestone and Plum creeks.

Jack Robson, who farms north of Deleau, said there’s no hiding the problem.

"The issue is everybody is digging trenches into the Pipestone Creek, right from Broadview (Sask.) all the way down," he said.

"It’s not just Saskatchewan, they’re digging channels in Manitoba, too, and everyone is draining their potholes and that swooshes it into Oak Lake and causes problems for the cottage owners, too."

Robson farms a 500 cow-calf operation. The high water from the Plum Creek has wiped out some of his hay.

Some of his cattle are isolated on a 10-acre section, where he takes a couple of bales of hay each day to ensure they stay healthy.

"What used to be pretty nice grassland is now growing bullrushes and barley grass, neither of which is any good for hay or pasture," he said.

"We’re just ending up being a sump for Saskatchewan drainage."

While the water has negatively impacted some RMs and producers, it has been a boon for aerial sprayers.

"We’re extremely busy," Westman Aerial Spraying owner Jon Bagley said.

Grain and oilseed spraying is up approximately 50 per cent.

"We’ve gotten a lot of extra work because the ground sprayers couldn’t get on the fields," he said.

Producers, who typically spray their own crops with high-clearing machines, are relying on aerial spraying to apply fungicides on their crops, mainly canola right now.

Bagley said his pilots set out at dark in the morning to get to the fields by sunrise.

They break during the hottest periods of the day, when spraying isn’t optimal, and pick it back up in the evening, going until dark.

All of the loading is done at a strip southwest of Brandon.

"We made a commitment a long time ago to stay in the area and look after our local regular customers so we don’t go off looking for work," Bagley said.

» ctweed@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @CharlesTweed

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 17, 2014

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It’s a cruel magic trick of sorts.

Inch by inch, as floodwaters continue to recede in Westman like a slow curtain being pulled back, the true devastation of the flood is becoming more and more apparent.

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It’s a cruel magic trick of sorts.

Inch by inch, as floodwaters continue to recede in Westman like a slow curtain being pulled back, the true devastation of the flood is becoming more and more apparent.

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