The Manitoba government finds itself between the devil and the deep blue floodwaters this summer as communities across southern Manitoba and into the Interlake are demanding attention, compensation, better flood mitigation and answers.
And all of it now or sooner.
The sheer enormity of the flooding woes in the region have spanned several dozen communities in Manitoba alone, millions of acres of farmland and threaten the livelihoods and homes of many rural citizens.
And while the flood wave has subsided somewhat in Brandon and we can prepare for the Assiniboine’s slow decline in height, the wave of water is still making its way down to Lake Manitoba, which is slated to reach its peak sometime in early August.
The rising levels of that lake have been causing considerable concern for farmers and residents in the region, especially after the province’s recent admission that plans for cutting a channel to let water out of the lake faster would take at least seven years to complete.
About 70 farmers and residents from around Lake Manitoba got together on Tuesday to demand that the province cut the channel much sooner, before their way of life was all but destroyed.
“We need to move quicker ... We need flood-mitigation measures immediately. Not seven years, not three years, not two, now,” said Tom Teichroeb, one of the meeting’s organizers and the chairman of the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee.
The reasoning is pretty simple — between this year and seven years from now, there could be several other major floods that threaten the region.
As much as we can understand their concern, it must be said that there are other parts of the province that also find themselves in water-weary situations.
• The community of St. Lazare, which is situated near the joining of the Assiniboine and Qu’Appelle rivers, has been inundated with floodwater that left many homes at risk and farmland in the valley under nearly a metre of water.
• Several days of rain submerged part of the town of Virden in early July, while the municipality carried out 50 mandatory evacuations along four of the town’s streets closest to the Scallion Creek.
• The RM of Edward was in a state of emergency from June 5. At least four of the municipality’s nine bridges have been destroyed (not including provincial roadways), one of which was rebuilt in 2011 to accommodate the area’s increased oil industry traffic.
• Near Deloraine, Whitewater Lake rose to an historic high of 1,633.5 feet, flooding out area producers.
• Farmland in the way of floodwaters between the Portage Diversion and Headlingley were swallowed leaving area producers in the lurch, much like 2011.
• At least 56 municipalities declared states of emergency in Manitoba over the course of the last few weeks, and evacuations forced hundreds of people from their homes in affected regions. The RM of Victoria Beach was also preparing to declare a state of emergency this week as water levels rose on Lake Winnipeg and strong winds affected the region.
• And in Brandon, plans to augment and enhance the current dike system along the Assiniboine have been pushed back due to this year’s summer flooding. First Street North remains under water and could possibly require significant repair after having been submerged for so many days.
All of these regions have every right to expect the province to provide aid in some way, and yet even between federal and provincial coffers resources are limited. And as with all things, changes and improvements to drain or hold back water more effectively take time, as they take time to plan, negotiate, and approve.
But where to start? The province must plan its priorities moving forward, but it will have to do so amid a storm of angry municipalities and flooded-out citizens who feel ever-more isolated from the wheels of power.
This, even as the NDP are yet dealing with the lasting affects of the 2011 flood. This could be a very costly situation for the governing party in more ways than one if it can’t find a way to tread the political floodwaters.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 17, 2014