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Task force to review 2011 flood

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Four separate reviews will be done over the next few months to look at how well the Selinger government fought last year’s flood in southern Manitoba and to recommend ways it can better fight the next one.

Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced the reviews Wednesday as provincial flood forecasters prepare their first report on what Manitobans can expect this spring, which at this point appears to be not much with so little snow on the ground throughout the prairies.

Ashton said the main review will be done by the 2011 flood review task force, which will be chaired by engineer David Farlinger, who did a similar job following the 1997 flood on the Red River.

A separate review, chaired by economist and management consultant Harold Westdal, will examine water levels on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.

A third review will study flood control measures in the entire Lake Manitoba watershed including Lake of the Prairies and the Qu’Appelle and Souris Rivers. It will be done by an independent consultant who has yet to be named.

"This is not something that’s going to go on extensively," Ashton said. "We want to get recommendations back in 2012."

Ashton said longer term, a fourth study will come up with a province-wide plan to better manage water on the land rather than though drainage. University of Alberta Shannon Stunden Bower, the author of Wet Prairie: People, Land and Water in Agricultural Manitoba, will be involved.

Ashton said the price tag for the reviews is about $4 million, a reasonable cost when compared to the still-climbing flood bill of $815 million.

He said with the coming of spring, Farlinger and Westdal can alert the province of problems they’ve found ahead of submitting their final reports.

"We are by no means assuming there will not be flooding in 2012," Ashton said. "Dare I say in 1997 it took one major storm to lead to very significant flooding."

Critics were quick to jump on the NDP for announcing the reviews too late in the game. Both the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives said the province could have done it in the fall to take advantage of summer construction season instead of being sidetracked by the provincial election campaign.

"You’re going to lose a year in actually implementing any recommendations," Liberal leader Jon Gerrard said.

Tory MLA Ian Wishart said the PCs have been calling for an independent review since the fall.

"We need to focus to make the sure the big focus is not lost because when you break it into pieces like they’re done it certainly leaves that at risk," he said.

Ashton dismissed those criticisms, saying the province was still busy fighting the flood particularly on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin, including building the $100 million channel to funnel water from Lake St. Martin towards Lake Winnipeg.

"We’re still dealing with a flood situation, but we felt we were finally at the point where we’re at least in transition to where we can actually focus on some of the longer term issues," he said.

Ashton said a frozen-over Lake Manitoba is currently 813.87 feet above seas level, more than three feet below flood peak in the summer, but still close to the 814 flood stage.

"What the review will look at is, is that the appropriate level? Does it need to be adjusted?" Ashton said. "Clearly, this year, everything changed on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin."

Farlinger said at this point his task force review, which will examine everything from diking, sandbagging procedures, the intentional breach of the flooded Assiniboine River an the Hoop and Holler Bend to how the Portage Diversion was used, has not picked what will its priority.

"I think it would be premature to say at this point in time that any one is more important than any other," Farlinger said.

Westdal said conceivably, his review of water levels on lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin could include new zoning restrictions on where people can build.

Both Farlinger and Westdal’s reviews are to be done over the next six to nine months.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

2011 Flood Review Task Force

The 2011 Flood Review Task Force task will be chaired by David Farlinger, a civil engineer. Farlinger also chaired the Manitoba Water Commission that undertook an independent review of the 1997 flood. Other task force members are:

  • Louis Allain, St. Laurent;
  • Kam Blight, reeve, Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie;
  • Darryl Jackson, mayor of Souris;
  • Craig MacLaughan, retired, Nova Scotia Emergency Measures Organization;
  • Rhonda Kirkness, project manager, Fisher River First Nation;
  • Ron Woodvine, hydrological engineer, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; and
  • David Andres, Northwest Hydraulics Consulting.

Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Regulation Review and Operating Advisory

The Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Regulation Review committee will be chaired by Harold Westdal, an economist and certified management consultant. Other members of the review committee are:

  • Caron Clarke, Manitoba Beef Producers;
  • Gordon Goldsborough, associate professor, biological sciences University of Manitoba;
  • Randy Helgason, Lake Manitoba fisher and Ashern councillor;
  • Gary McLean, Lake Manitoba First Nation;
  • Gary Morlock, Fisheries Enhancement Fund;
  • Alfred Morrisseau, mayor of Crane River;
  • Cheryl Smith, Association of Lake Manitoba Stakeholders;
  • Emery Stagg, former chief, Dauphin River First Nation;
  • Tom Teichroeb, Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee;
  • Norman Traverse, elder, Lake St. Martin;
  • Don Walsh, reeve of Woodlands; and
  • Rick Bowering, retired hydrological engineer.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:46 PM CST: Updates from the news conference.

2:54 PM: adds details of task force

5:37 PM: Adds full write-through with details and quotes

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