RIVERBANK DISCOVERY CENTRE
The view from the Riverbank Discovery Centre looking south. On the right hand side of the photo, more than 100 feet of riverbank and pond dike have been washed away by the river.
A mouldy crawlspace, thousands of dead trees and a 100-foot washout between the Assiniboine River and the interpretive pond.
Damage along the riverbank. (RIVERBANK DISCOVERY CENTRE)
Nearly two years since the historic 2011 flood, the Brandon Riverbank Discovery Centre is still dealing with its devastating effects.
"It’s very frustrating and it’s very disappointing," said Lois MacDonald, manager of Brandon Riverbank Inc. "We were very hopeful that we could rebuild and get the area back up to where it was that people had enjoyed previously. Two years later, it’s still not even close, unfortunately."
What has been the biggest roadblock, MacDonald says, is getting help through Disaster Financial Assistance.
"DFA isn’t helping in the way that I think we thought it would originally," she said. "So it’s proving to be challenging and we’re having to come up with other partnerships and some other options … in order to try and reclaim the riverbank area."
The biggest issue that Brandon Riverbank Inc. is dealing with is the facility’s crawlspace, which was covered with more than a foot of water during the flood. It created a dangerous mould issue in the area spanning 11,000 square feet.
"It doesn’t impact the staff or users of the facility because the crawl space is separate," MacDonald said. "But we don’t want it there, obviously it needs to be cleaned up."
The non-profit organization decided the best option was to put down a heavy polyliner to seal the mould underneath, which comes at a cost of $60,000.
Brandon Riverbank Inc. has since been informed it won’t be covered at all through DFA, due to the fact that they are not restoring it to what it was before the flood.
"They consider that to be an upgrade," MacDonald said.
The organization looked into putting everything back to the way it was, however MacDonald said they couldn’t find a contractor that would provide a quote or do the work.
"In working with … the company that we had retained to do the mould remediation work, they worked with a company in Winnipeg and came up with the next best option," MacDonald said.
Between 12,000 and 15,000 trees died in the river corridor as a result of the flood. They have yet to be removed, as it will be a huge undertaking and Brandon Riverbank Inc. needs funding.
"DFA only pays to remove trees that have fallen as a result of the flood or that pose an immediate and significant threat of falling on a pathway or something like that," MacDonald said.
"Anything outside of that … they consider to be beautification, so they don’t fund that."
MacDonald said trees provide an important stabilization network into the banks.
"So when those trees are dead, the riverbank is very threatened," she said.
MacDonald said with their non-profit, charitable status, they are applying for funding to purchase new trees to plant.
"But of course the areas have to be cleaned up first before that can happen," she said. The City of Brandon is working on restoring the park areas around the city.
"We as Brandon Riverbank have been working with the City of Brandon, trying to work with DFA, we are getting a little more movement I guess you would say, just with regards to assistance, or a plan or a partnership in place to start working on removing those trees."
Meanwhile, Brandon Riverbank also has to deal with the washout between the river and the interpretive pond.
"There’s a hundred foot hole there that the river took out and early on we learned that was not going to be covered through DFA because they do not cover riverbank erosion, which they considered that to be," she said.
As a result, the estimated $1-million project will be a part of the city’s dike work.
Brandon Riverbank was provided with $28,000 through DFA, which they used for moving expenses, washing down the play structure and getting new sand for the play area. As well, the funds went to remove drywall in the crawl space, along with cleaning, disinfecting and testing.
The organization also received nearly $20,000 from the federal government recently to help with recovery efforts.
A provincial spokesperson provided an emailed statement regarding Brandon Riverbank Inc.
"The province is working closely with Riverbank Inc. on its Disaster Financial Assistance claim for the Discovery Centre due to damages sustained in the 2011 flood. The DFA program has significant additional funding earmarked for the centre as they work to complete the restoration project," the statement read. "The program guidelines are set out by the federal government."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 1, 2013