The City of Brandon should not do any "Band-Aid fixes" along the riverbank until flood mitigation plans are determined for the Assiniboine River basin, says mayoral candidate Mark Kovatch.
"In my view, until the root cause of the problem is solved, it’s no use throwing good money after that … and wasting taxpayers’ money," he said.
The Brandon Sun contacted the city’s three mayoral candidates to hear their vision on how to move forward with the Assiniboine River and its nearby greenspaces and amenities.
Kovatch said establishing the Assiniboine River Basin Commission is a good start, but thinks more co-operation needs to happen between provinces.
Kovatch owns Turtle Crossing campground and experienced significant damage to his property following to the 2011 flood.
He worked to protect infrastructure and establish better flood protection.
"This time around, even though the water level was the same, I’ve got cleanup but I don’t have destruction," he said. "So we have to take the same type of approach when we’re working on the city parks."
Kovatch said a priority would be to put together a group to figure out the best way to bring city parks back "without having to worry about … huge cash outlays every time there is a major flood event."
Mayoral candidate Rick Chrest suggested some greenspaces may need to become more natural park areas, that can still be used for hiking, cross-country skiing and other activities.
"I’m doubtful … that we can afford to completely flood-proof all the parks that are along the river corridor," he said. "Parks that are just natural spaces are not nearly as expensive to develop and maintain."
Facilities like the Optimist Park soccer pitches may have to be relocated to a more suitable location, he added.
"It’s going to make more common sense to have them located in an area that will not flood and can be sustainable and last forevermore," Chrest said.
During this summer’s flood, First Street North was flooded, closing the main roadway for weeks and causing significant damage.
"That’s one of our two most strategic accesses to Brandon, so … there may have to be some further diking to that area to be able to keep it open," Chrest said.
Incumbent Mayor Shari Decter Hirst said dealing with recurring, significant flooding may be Brandon’s "new normal," so replacing some recreation amenities continually impacted by the flood "may not be the best investment."
Discussions have begun on establishing a potential new recreation facility near Assiniboine Community College’s North Hill campus.
A new strategy would have to be put in place to determine the types of trees to plant, what kinds of paths to rebuild and where to put other park features, she said.
"We can’t keep repairing it as if it won’t flood again," she said.
As for flood protection, Decter Hirst said several initiatives are underway, including establishing a lift station on the north side of the river.
"That was a big concern during 2011. We’ve got to get secure water and sewer service to the residents who live north of the river," she said.
Work is also planned for storm sewer outlets, which includes adding a fixture to them to make sure they close automatically in the event of a flood.
"We need to continue to repair and reinforce the dike, especially after this past summer, because again it takes a real toll with erosion," Decter Hirst said.
A pile of clay and rock is located near Grand Valley Road, in case the city needs to fill in the dike again.
"We’re going to put the city to bed at freeze-up as if there could be a flood in the spring," she said.
With high river levels and saturated ground, if Brandon gets a lot of moisture through the fall and winter, Decter Hirst expects we will be "right back at it again" come spring.
What to do with First Street North is also a priority for the mayor.
During this summer’s flood, at one point the only way in and out of Brandon was 18th Street, which Decter Hirst said created safety concerns.
"As we begin to think about and work with the province on how to repair First Street, we have to consider raising First Street."
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