Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lack of flood-proofing in Peguis: Ashton

Ottawa urged to get on with it

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Manitoba's emergency measures minister is urging Ottawa to get on with the job of flood-proofing Peguis First Nation in light of the chronic springtime problems in that community.

Steve Ashton was reacting Monday to news 131 members of the Interlake community had been forced from their homes.

The federal government is responsible for flood mitigation in First Nation communities, and every year aboriginal people appear to bear the brunt of springtime flooding, he said.

That includes this year. As of Monday afternoon, 195 of the 234 Manitobans evacuated were from First Nations. In addition to those at Peguis, 64 residents of Waywayseecappo First Nation in western Manitoba had also been forced to leave their homes. The latter group includes residents of a 10-unit seniors home.

"Clearly what you're seeing in Peguis is again the degree to which First Nations communities are more susceptible to flooding than other communities," Ashton said.

'I'm disappointed that we're seeing flooding again in Peguis when steps could have been taken'

-- Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton

"I would say as emergency measures minister for Manitoba I'm disappointed that we're seeing flooding again in Peguis when steps could have been taken -- certainly could be taken in the longer term to prevent this kind of scenario."

Since the major flood there in 2009, the federal government has agreed to relocate 70 or more homes at Peguis that are especially vulnerable to flooding.

The province has participated in technical studies that have identified potential flood-proofing solutions, but Ottawa has yet to take action to mitigate flooding there.

The community also needs more equipment and personnel to provide a rapid response to flood threats in the interim, Ashton said.

The Fisher River in Peguis exceeded its banks over the weekend, but provincial officials said Monday water levels were falling.

In anticipation of the flooding, the province provided the community with 100 Tiger Tube dams last week. Another 100 tube dams were staged near by.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has yet to complete a damage assessment in Peguis, the province said.

A spokeswoman for federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said Ottawa has taken action in terms of emergency response.

"At Peguis First Nation, approximately 25 homes have been diked and 49 of the evacuees are being accommodated at hotels in Winnipeg, with the rest staying with friends or family in their community," Erica Meekes wrote in an email.

"We are working closely with Peguis First Nation to determine their needs, develop work plans (and) ensure that emergency plans are in place."

Earlier this year, the federal government said more than 1,600 residents of four Manitoba First Nations -- Lake St. Martin, Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River and Pinaymootang -- were still displaced from the 2011 flood.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

 

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2014 A4

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