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Where's the compensation?

Lake Manitoba flood victims feel abandoned

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The flood of 2011 isn't over by a long shot, even if governments won't acknowledge it, say people around Lake Manitoba.

Governments have abandoned people around the lake who are still struggling with the after-effects of flooding, they say. It was a man-made flood caused by rerouting Assiniboine River water into Lake Manitoba to protect possible flooding of residential property west of Winnipeg. (The Perimeter Highway protected Winnipeg from any overland flooding by the Assiniboine.)

"Nothing. Zero," responded Tom Teichroeb, when asked what government assistance he has received for 2012.

Teichroeb has been able to use only 10 to 15 per cent of his pasture a year after the flood because flood waters wiped out grasses.

Pastures typically take about five years to recover from flooding. His additional cost for hauling, renting pasture and buying "a tremendous amount of (additional) feed" came to just shy of $100,000. He keeps about 500 cattle.

The government won't acknowledge there are ongoing costs associated with the flood.

During the 2011 Manitoba election, provincial ministers such as then-agriculture minister Stan Struthers, promised people along Lake Manitoba they would receive 100 per cent compensation because the flood was a man-made event. The promises are recorded.

"We're trying to assess why that didn't happen," Teichroeb said.

"The key thing for us is there was nothing for us to graze (in 2012), there was nothing for us to feed our cattle with," he said. He had to rent pasture elsewhere and truck his herd. That is a very big cost directly caused by the flood, yet he cannot get compensation, he said.

Farmers were also limited in what land they could dedicate to livestock because much of their infrastructure, such as fencing, was destroyed by the flood. They had to wait for adjusters to come out in 2012, and by then it was too late to put up fences for that season.

Eleven municipalities and villages bordering Lake Manitoba have formed the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee. It has scheduled an open meeting with government officials for 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, in Meadow-Lea Hall just outside Marquette, about 40 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. It's expected to be an emotional event.

There is some question about whether the issue stems from the federal government taking a hard line on what it approves for flood compensation. Ottawa reimburses the province up to 90 per cent of its flood costs if they agree on eligibility for flood compensation.

But the two levels don't always agree. For example, Ottawa rejected the cost of diking around Lake Winnipeg several years ago as protection against late-autumn windstorms as eligible anti-flooding work.

Robert Sopuck, the MP for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, has already confirmed he will attend the Feb 22 meeting. Flood-committee members expect several provincial cabinet ministers will also attend. Struthers, the MLA for Dauphin and now Manitoba finance minister, has also been invited.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 10, 2013 A3

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