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This article was published 8/8/2012 (2565 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The premier says he’s well aware of the crumbling infrastructure servicing the energy industry in southwestern Manitoba.
He also said the province is willing to work with private industry to deal with the situation.
"We’re aware of some of the challenges around the roads," Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday during a stop in Brandon.
"There is a record amount of drilling and activity down there right now, but of course if the industry has some concerns, (we’ll) sit down and work with them to see if (we) can solve the problem rather than writing a blank cheque," Selinger said.
A high water table this spring coupled with trucks carrying heavy loads has created a perfect storm of destruction. That, on top of the blow nature dealt the infrastructure in the area in spring 2011.
"Some of (the challenges) are related to the flood from last year and some washouts of a bridge," Selinger said.
The bridge in question is the Coulter bridge near Waskada on Provincial Road 251. The province has streamlined the construction project, which is expected to be completed in November 2013, but some residents question why the province isn’t working with oil companies in the area that have offered to chip in to build a temporary bridge until a permanent structure can be completed.
Yesterday, Selinger cleared up any confusion about a temporary bridge.
"Our officials are building (the permanent bridge) as fast as they can, but they are reluctant to build a temporary (bridge) that they don’t feel will be necessarily safe," Selinger said. "They are concerned about the temporary solution having risks that would put the public at risk."
"You have a choice between getting a permanent solution done or a temporary solution that may make the permanent solution take longer and have additional costs," Selinger added.
Although the temporary bridge won’t be built at Coulter, Selinger said the province is willing to work with industry to address infrastructure issues.
"There is a road improvement fund that industry can put some resources into," Selinger said. "That may not be sufficient to meet all of the challenges and there obviously has to be some public investment as well."
Last month, the Oil Producing Municipalities of Manitoba (OPMM), an association of 16 municipalities that are at the epicentre of the oil and gas exploration in the province, met with Energy, Industry and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak to voice concerns in several areas on the short- and long-term plans from the province regarding the oil and gas industry.
"We dealt with a number of issues," executive member of OPMM and reeve of the RM of Pipestone Ross Tycoles said, adding that the group put forward an official position paper outlining concerns regarding permitting delays, tax re-assessments for horizontal wells and strategies for municipal infrastructure funding, which would include roads and bridges.
"We’re looking for some long-term planning toward infrastructure in the area and some funding agreements to help sustain provincial and municipal roads," Tycoles said. "The biggest thing that came out of the meeting was the formation of a steering committee that will meet in September to start some planning to deal with the growth of this industry in the province over the last five years."
While fixing existing roads in the area is a high priority for the OPMM, Tycoles said that there are areas that are simply underdeveloped for the level of activity.
"Because we did some grain arteries earlier, our roads are a little better (near Reston), but we’ve been through this already and we have 2,000 wells here," Tycoles said.
"In other areas where they are just developing, they are under stress big time at the municipal level and maybe can’t even sustain what is happening because of the damage. And when the provincial roads can’t handle it, they are using municipal roads and the roads are getting beat up."
As of July 31, 16 of 26 rigs were working in Manitoba according to the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors and while there are many factors that weigh into why some rigs are working while others are shut down, Tycoles believes the state of the roads is playing a factor.
"There is less activity than there was and a lot of them are waiting until later because of the spring road conditions," Tycoles said. "We’ve heard that some rigs have withdrawn for a number of reasons and one of them is the ability to get around."
According to a government spokesman, the province has six road projects due for completion this year, including paving a 12-kilometre stretch of Highway 2 between Sinclair and Reston, and replacing the structure at Jackson Creek west of Sinclair. The projects are important to the Cromer Pumping Station, which supplies crude to Eastern and Western Canada as well as the United States.
"All of the oil from the area, from Saskatchewan and even North Dakota, goes through that station," Tycoles said.
"It’s a central artery for all of the oil and that area is full of trucks going every which way."