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Selinger promises extra compensation for flooded properties

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Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger promises a special compensation program for Manitobans whose properties will be sacrificed because of the cut in the Hoop and Holler Bend, which is set to take place Saturday morning.

During a television broadcast Friday evening, Selinger said the program will be "above and beyond the disaster assistance and insurance already in place."

"Families and producers affected by the controlled release will receive compensation to cover damages, income losses and the cost of recovering the land after the flood waters recede," he added.

Selinger said breaking open the dike that's holding back water at the bend in the Assiniboine River "was not an easy decision."

"We have worked to delay the timing of the release for as long as we safely could to allow more homes to be protected," he said, adding the military is still busy protecting more than 100 homes.

Selinger said the alternative — an uncontrolled break — would be "catastrophic and unpredictable, spilling water onto more than 500 square kilometres of land and up to 850 homes.

"If we stood back and allowed nature to run its couse, we would face an almost certain uncontrolled break of the dike."

Provincial officials said they planned to visit all homes in the zone that is expected be artificially flooded in the coming days to listen to concerns and ensure residents have the information they need.

The door-to-door blitz comes after days of criticism from residents and municipal leaders about a lack of information.

"Message received," Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said after visiting the reeve of the RM of Portage la Prairie Friday afternoon.

The province has faced many complaints about a lack of information about the timing of the planned release of water from a notch to be cut in the dike just east of Portage la Prairie. The dike at Hoop and Holler Bend will be breached by excavating equipment beginning at about 6 a.m. on Saturday. The water will be released slowly at first, and many in the impact zone won’t be affected for several days.

Ashton reiterated that one of the reasons the province has not been able to be precise is that it has been trying to delay the release to buy people more time to prepare their properties.

Ashton said some people have been confused as to whether they are in the potential flood zone. Some people who have complained  they have not received information from government do not live in the area that will be artificially flooded, Ashton said.

The government estimated Friday that flows from the controlled release would reach Elie in about a week. The water will likely flow into the La Salle River south of the town.

On Friday, residents in La Salle, Sanford, and Starbuck bolstered their flood defences as a precaution, although they weren't expected to be affected by the controlled release.

Chuck Sanderson, executive director of Manitoba’s Emergency Measures Organization, said people who are unsure whether they will be affected can contact their municipality or visit the general government and Water Stewardship Department websites.

Also on Friday, the RM of Portage la Prairie issued a third precautionary voluntary evacuation notice covering 25 square miles and affecting 76 residences. Those homes are east of PR 430, south of the Assiniboine River, to Road 68 North and south of the Assiniboine River from the Trans-Canada Highway to PR 430.

Tthe evacuation is voluntary but will be made mandatory if there are escalating concerns over safety.
The first two voluntary evacuations covered:

* Road 34W east to PR 13 and from PR 331 south three miles to the correction line (Road 60N), and
* from Road 69 north to Lake Manitoba, and approximately two-and-a-half miles on either side of the Portage Diversion.

The municipality is asking people who are leaving their homes to register with the Red Cross at 1-888-662-3211 or visit the reception centre located in the Provincial Building in Portage la Prairie, at 25 Tupper Street North.

Land south of the Assiniboine wasn't the only vast area in imminent danger. Residents and cottage owners at Twin Lakes Beaches on Lake Manitoba feared their properties would go under water soon as the province pumps in even more water from the swollen Assiniboine.

They said they are still recovering from last October’s storm that wiped out a large part of the shoreline. And, the Portage Diversion is carrying massive rushing water at almost double the rate it handled a week ago, bleeding off so much water from the Assinboine and dumping it in Lake Manitoba that provincial officials said Friday it was handling more water than the Red River Floodway around Winnipeg.



Updated on Friday, May 13, 2011 at 12:46 PM CDT: Adds Navy assistance in Portage

3:09 PM: Adds new photo

3:36 PM: Adds Selinger address comments

3:52 PM: Adds that we will have the live feed of Selinger's comments

6:19 PM: Adds Premier Selinger's announcement

6:50 PM: Updates with quotes and details thorughout

10:47 PM: Updates with Lake Manitoba details.

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