Rural municipalities in southwest Manitoba, including the pictured RM of Edward, have declared states of emergency due to overland flooding.
The province is putting the blame squarely on illegal draining in Saskatchewan for drowning farm fields and washed-out roads in southwestern Manitoba.
Nestled in the corner pocket of the province, the rural municipalities of Albert, Edward and Arthur have all declared states of emergency, with others likely to follow suit after much of the province saw double the normal rainfall in April, May and the first part of June.
During a media conference call Wednesday, Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said he expects disaster relief funding requests to start pouring in, but said the government’s focus right now is push Saskatchewan to tighten its laws against illegal water diversion.
Saskatchewan has made strides to address the issue, and in 2012, its government created the Water Security Agency.
"The bottom line is if it impacts Manitobans, we are going to be raising it on behalf of affected areas," Ashton said.
"I’m assuming there will be followup in terms of excess moisture insurance, crop insurance, many of the measures we do have in place ... I don’t underestimate the impact it’s had, (southwest Manitoba has) been hard hit over the last number of years."
The RM of Edward declared its state of emergency last week with 65 kilometres of closed roads and a paltry 15 per cent of its crops seeded.
Ward 2 Coun. Debbie McMechan said the RM’s pleas to the province have so far gone unanswered.
"We have not been contacted by the province," she said. "That surprises me."
Areas in the corner of the province have been pushed into states of emergency four out of the last five years due to water, eroding farmers’ patience.
"For some farmers, it will be going on three years since they’ve seeded some land," McMechan said. "The economic stressors on this sector are going to be becoming very severe."
And it’s no different for the oil industry, she added.
The RM of Pipestone, also awash with what’s now perennial flooding, is on the cusp of declaring a state of emergency as well.
Devastating floods last year left the ground completely saturated in Pipestone and like its neighbours, only about 15 per cent of its crops are seeded. RM of Albert Reeve Tim Campbell said his area has about 25 per cent done.
Pipestone Reeve Ross Tycoles described four-foot-wide ravines running through fields and washed-out grid roads blocking driver access in certain areas of the oil-rich area.
"It has stopped industry and oil because the roads can’t handle what’s going on, all due to water," Tycoles said, and about 180 sites — including roads, bridges and culverts — are awaiting repair.
Many of these areas are still trying to catch their breath from last year’s devastation — in some cases, still cleaning up after the flood of 2011.
"We went from wet summer to wet fall to wet spring," Tycoles said.
Ashton said the municipalities have created alternative routes for school buses and emergency vehicles, but if access is hindered, the province will begin to evacuate.
» Twitter: @grjbruce
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 12, 2014