Farmers affected by Assiniboine River flooding caused by the operation of the Shellmouth Dam will get compensation for flooding in 2011 and 2012, Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton said Friday.
Ashton said a technical study completed by provincial engineers showed there was some artificial flooding on the Assiniboine River that triggers compensation clauses in the Shellmouth Dam and Other Water Control Works Management and Compensation Act.
His statement on Friday came after repeated government denials that the flooding was artificial, thus keeping compensation out of the hands of area residents.
Ashton said he’s not yet aware of which periods of 2011 and 2012 the artificial flooding took place, and that it would take time to determine how many people will be compensated, and how much they will get from the government.
“There’s a number of areas affected and it’s important to note that historically when the Shellmouth Dam has operated, there may be periods when there is artificial flooding, but that doesn’t mean the entire flood is artificial because the Shellmouth Dam controls flows,” Ashton said. “Clearly there was artificial flooding for periods of time in 2011 and 2012. That’s not newsworthy to anyone in that area and it’s certainly something we anticipated at the time. It’s one of the reasons we have legislation that provides specific coverage for those who are affected.”
Riding Mountain Progressive Conservative MLA Leanne Rowat had one simple message for Ashton: It’s about time.
“That (technical) report should have been out a year ago,” said Rowat, who represents the Shellmouth Dam area and residents downstream. “There are people who have been waiting who have filed concerns with the minister and I believe some are considering legal action because the act has not been followed.”
Rowat said she wants to see the outcome of the technical reports written about the Shellmouth Dam flooding situation in 2011 and 2012.
“What we are hearing from people in Saskatchewan is that the water that has been coming into Manitoba should be a concern to us,” Rowat said. “People in Saskatchewan are wondering why this government is not dealing with it.”
When asked why the Shellmouth Reservoir level is not being reduced now, after a dry autumn and low Assiniboine River levels, he said there were processes and committees in place that determine the operation of the Shellmouth Dam.
“The operation of the Shellmouth is based on the best advice available and we also have the advisory committee we have put into place,” Ashton said. “We assess, as we did this spring, a variety of elements ranging in the forecast such as the actual flows in the watershed and that’s an ongoing process.”
Rowat said Ashton’s response is a clear indication that, “They don’t know what they are doing.”
“There doesn’t seem to be a person in charge who is willing to take the heat, make a decision on whether it’s going to impact producers downstream, then meet with them. To hide behind a committee that meets on the phone and there’s no quorum and there is no recorded votes is inappropriate. The minister and his staff need to meet with these ratepayers, upstream and downstream and determine what they are going to do.”
This compensation package is over and above the more than $1 billion already spent fighting the 2011 flood. Ashton said that the final bill could reach $1.25 billion.