BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Lois MacDonald, Riverbank Development & Tourism Services manager, stands on the boardwalk as the Assiniboine River spills into the west pond at the Discovery Centre.
Addressing the major riverbank erosion that occurred as a result of the 2011 flood is of "dire concern," says Lois MacDonald, manager of Brandon Riverbank Inc.
Flood waters washed away much of the gravel pathways which have been overgrown since the flood of 2011. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Debris from the Assiniboine River now collects in the west pond at the Riverbank Discovery Centre after flood waters eroded the banks of the river in 2011. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The non-profit organization is facing an estimated cost of $1.5 million to stabilize the riverbank, after being denied Disaster Financial Assistance.
"We know that if we do nothing, that the area will continue to erode and eventually, honestly, the building will fall in the river," MacDonald said. "We know that something needs to be done."
Due to the 2011 flood, a 100-foot chasm was carved, essentially making the west pond part of the Assiniboine River.
Significant damage was also done to the east bank of the river, located west of the Discovery Centre. This bank took the brunt of the force of the river as it came under the David Thompson Bridge and, according to the city, requires significant armouring to restabilize it.
"It’s quite a critical piece and timing really is of the essence, at least to start with the stabilization of the riverbank, just to ensure that we don’t lose more," MacDonald said.
The DFA program does not fund riverbank erosion, and because it was the riverbank that eroded to start with, followed by the dike surrounding the pond, docks and pumping structure, DFA will not provide funding to replace the riverbank or support its stabilization.
"This program has just so badly let us down," MacDonald said. "I think we’re far from the only people who are struggling to rebuild and take what Mother Nature has given us, and come up with the next best thing.
It has been a disheartening process …
"The provincial government and the federal government funding programs put in place to help this very situation have failed us."
The hope was that the City of Brandon would absorb the riverbank stabilization costs in the overall dike enhancement strategy, however according to the city, "financial challenges have removed this project from the scope of work."
The city’s dike plan engineers and river modeller are providing support to Brandon Riverbank Inc., which includes developing a conceptual plan and an updated cost estimate.
"We’re working with them to determine the best plan," MacDonald said. "Unfortunately once we get the plan, then together with the city, it’s a matter of figuring out how to fund it."
There is "just no way" the non-profit, charitable organization would be able to fundraise $1.5 million for the project, MacDonald said.
Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development, said the Discovery Centre, along with the river corridor, is an important community asset.
"It’s part of what makes Brandon, Brandon," she said. "We need to look at the asset along the corridor and figure out how do we preserve it, because as a community it simply has to be preserved."
Trudel said from the onset, there was the belief that this project would qualify for DFA funding.
"So when it was determined that this was not eligible, then that was certainly a game-changer in how you look at the preservation of that area," Trudel said, adding the city will be working with Brandon Riverbank Inc. in an effort to find a solution.
A call to the province’s Emergency Measures Organization was not returned.
In the meantime, Brandon Riverbank Inc. has been working tirelessly to find other funding avenues.
"We’ve kind of thrown the net wide … to try and get as may grants as we can," MacDonald said.
The organization has been successful in securing financial support through TD Green Streets, Manitoba Hydro Forest Enhancement Program and RBC Blue Water Project.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 8, 2013