Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Grit wants flood-mitigation channel

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Manitoba Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard says the province must build a new channel to drain Lake Manitoba quicker during bad flood years.

The recommendation is one of 65 in Gerrard's self-penned report looking at what went wrong during and after the 2011 flood.

He said the new channel should be built from Watchorn Bay on Lake Manitoba to Birch Creek on neighbouring Lake St. Martin. Additionally, an emergency channel the province built a year ago should be enhanced to divert water into Lake Winnipeg quicker without flooding nearby lakeshore communities.

University of Winnipeg biologist Scott Forbes said Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin will flood again without those extra channels.

"As the extra water comes in from the Portage Diversion, it would be allowed to leave in an expeditious manner," he said. "If we had that extra capacity in 2011, we wouldn't be here today."

The idea of building a channel at Watchorn Bay has been discussed by proponents for months, because it's an area construction crews can easily access and it would not drastically alter the landscape.

Gerrard also said the province should look at how it manages excess water throughout Manitoba, including water retention and wetland preservation.

The province also needs a better recovery and compensation system so disaster victims are back in their homes sooner without dealing with "bureaucratic chaos."

"The province has created so many departments and policies for flood-affected Manitobans that the continual shuffle back and forth is impeding the rebuilding of local economies and needlessly adding to the considerable stress that so many face," Gerrard said.

The report is on the Manitoba Liberal Party website.

The provincial government's 2011 Manitoba Flood Review Task Force and the Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin Regulation Review Committee continue their review of last year's flood. Public hearings were held last month.

The flood-review task force was appointed to examine last year's flood, including preparedness and response, flood forecasting, public communications, operation of flood-control infrastructure and flood protection.

The Lake Manitoba/Lake St. Martin review committee is looking at the operation of provincial water-control structures and water levels on Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin and associated waterways.

Their reports are expected to be done by late fall.

The Progressive Conservatives are also expected to release a report on the province's handling of the flood.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2012 A7

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