Municipal leaders eager to get a sense of the province’s new Surface Water Management Strategy were disappointed, as the document is still tied up in government bureaucracy.
Dr. Rhonda McDougal presented, but had no new information to offer, to hundreds of Association of Manitoba Municipalities delegates during their Municipal Officials Seminar on Thursday at the Keystone Centre.
RM of Sifton Coun. Stan Cochrane, who is also a member of the Assiniboine Valley Producers, said he’s more interested in action than documents and strategies that add “more red tape” to the process.
Cochrane has first-hand knowledge of the damage drainage and water retention have on the environment and people.
Cochrane, like many producers in the Assiniboine Valley, has been hammered by “artificial flooding” from the Shellmouth Reservoir for a number of years, wiping out tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land.
He said it’s almost impossible to get any movement on the smallest of dams, let alone major projects, through the government department.
McDougal cautioned that a slow approach is important to ensure some of the man-made mistakes that have led to increased flooding aren’t repeated in the future.
However, she also conceded that some wait times for simple drainage projects that require a licence need to be addressed.
Historically, there has been a large backlog of drainage requests, she said, particularily at peak times of the season that add delays. The last few years have been worse due to the excess moisture.
One major problem expressed by municipal leaders is that there are no economic incentives for municipalities to retain wetlands, despite being told of their importance.
“We all have a collective responsibility to steward our environment and that really doesn’t just equate with ‘Someone has to pay me for it,’” McDougal said. “There is a place for (compensation) but it’s not the only driver.”
Another problem is creating a collaborative direction on water issues when the water in Manitoba travels through several provinces and states.
“Our watershed for Lake Winnipeg is a million square kilometres,” McDougal said. “We have discussions with all of our neighbours and very strong mechanisms in place, particularily with the west, when it comes to water sharing.”
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