The Manitoba government is creating a new assistance program for fishers to help cover losses due to the use of the Lake St. Martin emergency channel during this summer’s flooding, the province said today.
It’s also in talks with Ottawa to create an emergency operations centre for First Nations in the Interlake to equip them to respond to flooding.
Both initiatives were revealed following a tour today by Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton and Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson of flood-affected areas in the Interlake.
Ashton said in a statement the assistance program for the Dauphin River and Lake St. Martin fisheries, affected by the operation of the Lake St. Martin emergency channel, will provide compensation for fishing opportunities lost while the channel is being used. It will also reimburse the cost of damaged nets and replacing damaged docks. Fishers staged a protest at the channel earlier this month on the issue.
The government also said it will appoint an independent commissioner to promptly deal with any possible appeals.
Robinson said First Nation communities have been disproportionately and most significantly affected by the severity of flooding over the past three years.
The province says Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada reports as of July 23 there were 505 evacuees from First Nation communities who have been affected by flooding in 2014.
Robinson said a new flood-fighting centre would be the first of its kind for First Nations in Canada.
The province says the idea was proposed by the Interlake Tribal Council and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs after the success of the North Red Waterway Maintenance consortium, which centralizes flood response for communities along the Red River north of Winnipeg. Initial plans for the centre include rapid-response flood equipment stationed centrally in the Lake St. Martin area.
The province said Thursday that to date it has received nearly 600 private applications for disaster financial assistance and another 35 applications from municipalities and other groups.
Meanwhile, the farm journal Manitoba Co-operator reports federal flood aid for farmers remains unclear.
Manitoba’s Opposition Progressive Conservatives said in a statement today that the Selinger government should fast-track the assessment process for the Agri-Recovery Program for farmers affected by flooding this year.
"These producers are looking for immediate action from the government — not vague promises of possible support sometime in the future," Agriculture, Food and Rural Development Critic Blaine Pedersen said.
As many as three million acres in Saskatchewan and 2.5 million acres in Manitoba have been flooded this summer and are unlikely to produce a crop, estimates from Saskatchewan's government and Keystone Agricultural Producers show.
In its most recent flood bulletin, the province said flows Thursday morning on the Portage Diversion were approximately 16,250 cubic feet per second, reduced to less than half of the 33,000 cfs seen last week during peak flows.
The flow on the Assiniboine River dikes between Portage la Prairie and Headingley was 15,000 cfs, down from 18,000 cfs last week.
Provincial crews were also working with the RM of Portage la Prairie to remove flood protection at homes near the Hoop and Holler bend, the site where the province prepared to breach the Assiniboine River to reduce pressure on dikes from flooding