The Red River north of Selkirk must be dredged to reduce ice jams that cause flash flooding, local community leaders say.
The river hasn't been dredged since the late 1990s and in some spots has become so clogged with sediment that winter ice forms right to the bottom, making it tough to dislodge in the spring.
St. Clements Reeve Steve Strang and St. Andrews Reeve Don Forfar said they've approached Ottawa with a $288,000 plan to use the province's two Amphibex ice-breaking machines to dredge the river from Selkirk up to the river's mouth at Lake Winnipeg.
They said that dredging will allow for quicker breakup of ice in the spring and reduce the threat of sudden ice jams.
"We live in a climate where Mother Nature throws a lot at us," added Selkirk Mayor David Bell, who watched as an ice jam two years ago flooded out two seniors' complexes and ruined the marine museum in Selkirk Park.
"It caused a lot of damage. We were signing cheques for a year after that."
Strang said ice tends to build up at the Provincial Trunk Highway 4 bridge north of Selkirk and near Sugar Island just south of the bridge.
"We're got to be proactive," Strang said. "Dredging is vital to what we're doing to protect our residents."
"Just doing a little bit a year would make a huge difference," Forfar added.
Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan said he's lobbying his government for money from the Building Canada fund for dredging.
He said the fund was used last year to pay for dredging on B.C.'s Fraser River to prevent flooding.
"We do need to dredge now as a precautionary measure," the Tory MP said, adding increased water flowing out of the widened floodway will only increase the amount of sediment in the river.
"Essentially, what you've done with the floodway is increase the size of the garden hose, but you haven't increased the size of your nozzle."
Bezan said the funding pales in comparison to the millions spent over the past decade flood-proofing the Red River Valley south of Winnipeg and widening the floodway.
"We're getting sacrificed to protect the capital region," he said of communities north of Lockport.