Three years after the 2011 flood, it is worth asking why Brandon is still trying to complete permanent dike work along the Assiniboine River.
But let’s be fair — what has been built is apparently serving us pretty well as the floodwaters flow by this weekend and we tolerate a second, higher crest on the river.
While there were a few anxious moments in the lead-up to the first crest following massive storms that left Westman awash in floodwater, for the most part Brandonites have indeed remained high and dry, watching the floodwaters flow by thanks in large part to dike construction that went on during the 2011 flood.
All in all, this has not been a repeat of the flood fight of 2011 for the city and the province. There have been inconveniences, but they were part of a plan announced almost exactly one year ago.
“If Brandon is faced with another major flood in the future,” a 2013 Sun story read, “18th Street and Highway 110 would be protected, while First Street could potentially be under water.”
At the time, the city’s director of engineering and water resources, Ian Christiansen, said the city had opted for a diking plan that would protect two major transportation routes instead of all three.
“The plan that we have will protect any residences and business,” he said. “It would just be the roadway that we would lose and then only at that time when we have a flood the magnitude of a 100-year ... or greater. A normal sort of flooding year, there would be no impact.”
The original dike plans that had been unveiled by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation in April 2012 included a major system spanning from Veterans Way down to Optimist Park, as well as a dike on the west side of First Street at Dinsdale Park and a small addition to the dike near 17th Street East.
The point of these initial plans was to protect First Street as a transportation corridor. But after the City of Brandon had taken control of the diking plans from the province, the economics of the day ruled that the eastern access would be a more cost-effective route to maintain.
Of course, there has been some flip-flopping on the issue of protecting the eastern access route, with the city first dropping planned dike work on Highway 110 last year. This work was quietly deleted from the city’s $22-million flood mitigation plans because there wasn’t enough money budgeted.
As has been announced and re-announced ad nauseum by the provincial government, cost savings on the Red River Floodway expansion project have allowed additional money to flow into Brandon’s flood protection upgrades.
Brandon’s $27-million flood protection enhancements now include dike construction along Highway 110, though that particular part of the project is under the direction of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation — not the city.
Before this summer’s flood-soaked roller-coaster ride started, the city had a five-step plan to permanently improve its flood protection, which was supposed to be completed by 2015.
These enhancements are to build on new linear dike construction that was already completed along 18th Street North. Eventually, improvements will be made to dikes in place on the north and south sides of the Assiniboine River to ensure structural integrity. Due to the ongoing flooding this month, it appears those completion dates will again be set back.
When questioned why these enhancements weren’t already completed, the city’s director of engineering and water resources, Patrick Pulak, recently told the Sun that “it just doesn’t happen that fast, especially when involving three levels of government.”
When it comes to flooding in southern Manitoba, we can fault Manitoba’s politicians for being many things — such as being slow to act and not working well together, whether based on ideology, incompetence or personal dislike, or all three.
We can fault the Manitoba government for not working more effectively with Saskatchewan to address increased water levels flowing through the watershed.
We can also fault the province for being slow to respond to and slow to provide aid for parts of the southwest corner of Manitoba, such as the RM of Edward — residents of which have been feeling isolated by the NDP for years, not just weeks.
In Brandon, however, we’ve had it pretty good compared with other flooded communities. Though evacuations notices went out to potentially affected areas, no one has had to leave their home. Businesses in the Corral Centre were not in danger of being flooded out this time around, because flood protection measures were already in place.
Of course, all of this comes with the caveat “thus far.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 12, 2014