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Banned farmer rips province for water on land

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Protesting farmers urged the province to put in a larger outlet to drain the lake faster.

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Protesting farmers urged the province to put in a larger outlet to drain the lake faster. Photo Store

A farmer under a court order preventing him from going into the Portage Diversion is upset that water is again draining onto adjacent fields.

Kevin Yuill, who farms in the RM of Portage la Prairie, said they're still waiting to hear back from Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton.

Yuill said Thursday he went to the site only after hearing a provincial official say the court order only prevented him from going into the Portage Diversion and not the top of it to see how much water is flowing out of the diversion onto adjacent land, including his.

"That's stupid -- there's 20 feet of water in there (the diversion)," Yuill said from a cellphone at the site.

"We'd be stupid to go in there."

Yuill said there is a section of the diversion about 300 metres long that has water flowing onto the Crown land beside it. He said so far, it's not as bad as 2011 when it flooded 700 acres of his land, but there's still about 12 to 24 centimetres of water on a small section of the Crown land and it's growing.

"This goes on every year -- that's why we're so upset."

The court order was issued against Yuill and other farmers who took part in a protest Monday by parking farm equipment at the bottom of the diversion.

The farmers were upset the province still hasn't paid them compensation for all the losses they suffered in 2011 and 2012 when the land still wasn't in full production.

The farmers, and other residents around Lake Manitoba, also want the province to put in a larger outlet to reduce the lake level faster.

But the province quickly went to the courts because it feared communities downstream on the Assiniboine River were at risk of flooding if the diversion wasn't used immediately. The province was able to open the gates Monday at about 11 p.m., 12 hours later than planned, after the farmers left.

On Monday, Ashton said, "People are entitled, if they have issues, to protest, to request meetings. You cross the line when you end up trespassing and moving to impede the operation of flood protection."

On Thursday, Ashton said farmers whose land is flooded are eligible for compensation.

"With the current situation, there's not going to be anything comparable to 2011, but there will be some farmers that will be impacted and there is coverage," he said. "It's a normal process."

A provincial spokesman said the province has paid more than $120 million in compensation, an average of $300,000 each, to farmers flooded out in 2011.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A6

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