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Chief says Peguis needs protection from annual flooding

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PEGUIS FIRST NATION - As flood waters in the north of Peguis First Nation creep higher, the reserve's chief says governments must work together to protect the community from what has become an annual crisis.

Since a state of emergency was called in the rural reserve, 622 people have been evacuated to Winnipeg as 187 homes and 40 roads are drenched in spill from the swollen Fisher River.

"Certainly it is a very stressful time for the community," said Chief Glenn Hudson, before heading out to survey the area.

While water in the south of the reserve inched down overnight, it needs to drop by a matter of feet before the crest can be declared over, Hudson said.

Along the main highway into Peguis, homes stood in lakes of standing water, some emptied of their owners. "It's been pretty rough," said one resident standing outside the band office.

This is the sixth time in three years that Peguis has flooded. Though flooding is less severe this year than in 2009, when over 800 people were evacuated, Hudson said more solutions need to be found.

"To... put our families through this is unacceptable," he said, noting that a full-scale diversion would add long-term protection not just for Peguis, but for communities north of the reserve that are threatened to be cut off by flooding over Highway 224 which runs through its heart.

Canada needs a national flood mitigation program that would alleviate the problems that have already forced more than 500 residents of Peguis First Nation to evacuate, Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton declared this afternoon.

"How many more times do people have to go through a flood event?" Ashton told a news conference. "There needs to be an ongoing national mitigation fund."

Ashton said that Ottawa and the provinces need a strategy and the money to implement it, pointing to massive improvements to the Red River Floodway that could be brought to communities on a smaller scale. Peguis could use a combination of projects, such as relocating dozens of homes and improving drainage, he said.

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