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Lake Manitoba residents still fighting for flood compensation

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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, people say. It was a man-made flood caused by rerouting of 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. He keeps about 500 head of cattle.

Teichroeb was only been able to use 10-15 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.

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

During the 2011 Manitoba election, provincial ministers, like then farm 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," said Teichroeb.

"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, like 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 called an open meeting for government officials for 1 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, in Meadow-Lea Hall just outside Marquette. It's expected to be an emotional meeting. Marquette is about 40 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

There is some question 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 the matter is eligible for flood compensation.

But they don't always agree. For example, the cost of diking work around Lake Winnipeg several years ago as protection against a late autumn wind storms was rejected as eligible flood work by Ottawa.

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

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