Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ottawa to fund flood protection

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A new federal program to help provinces pay for new dikes and higher roads to protect against flooding is welcome news to Manitoba, Premier Greg Selinger said Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews revealed details of the three-year, $99.2-million program.

Selinger said he first discussed the idea with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during the 2011 spring flood.

"I'm pleased the prime minister and his government have followed through on something we agreed to," he said. "We spent about $120 million on mitigation projects before the (2011) flood actually hit us, and this program we think will offset some of those costs we took 100 per cent on our own hook."

Toews said the government will reimburse Quebec and Saskatchewan, which also experienced flooding in 2011.

He said it's wise to cost-share approved permanent flood-protection projects.

"Rather than simply repairing the same road and the same dike every year after the flooding, we want to do it once and for all," Toews said.

Selinger said an example is permanent flood projects at Peguis First Nation, which has been hit by repeated spring flooding.

Peguis and the Ebb and Flow First Nations filed lawsuits last year against Ottawa, the province and Manitoba Hydro over "unusually massive" flooding, which they claim unnecessarily flooded their land.

Toews added officials hope the program, called the Financial Support to Provinces and Territories for 2011 Flood Mitigation Investments, can be developed into a permanent national program, modelled after a similar program put in place after the 1997 flood in southern Manitoba.

Toews said funding flood protection is a new idea because the government usually helps cover repair work after a disaster through disaster financial assistance.

To date, the federal government has paid $100 million to Manitoba under the disaster-assistance program to help offset the roughly $1-billion cost to the province of fighting last year's flood.

Toews reiterated that more disaster-assistance money is owed to Manitoba.

"It's anticipated we're going to spend a lot more than $100 million," he said, estimating it to be between $300 million to $400 million.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 15, 2012 A6

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