Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Selinger takes extraordinary measure of TV address

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It is an unprecedented flood and on Friday night Premier Greg Selinger took the almost unprecedented step of addressing Manitobans on live television to explain why some residents' properties are being sacrificed in the flood fight.

And Selinger also promised those residents who today will be in the path of water caused when the province purposely cuts through the Assiniboine River's protective dike at the Hoop and Holler Bend this morning that they will receive extra financial compensation.

Selinger said he had told his staff to create "a special compensation program above and beyond the disaster assistance and insurance already in place."

"Families and producers affected by the controlled release will receive compensation to cover damages, income losses and the cost of recovering the land after the flood waters recede."

As a signal of the gravity of the situation facing residents and farmers in the path of the planned release of water from the Assiniboine River east of Portage la Prairie, provincial officials couldn't remember the last time a premier had addressed the province on live television.

Officials said it was probably the first time in more than 30 years a premier had gone on live television to address the province on an issue -- and that may have also been flood-related: Premier Sterling Lyon talking about the 1979 flood.

Selinger said Manitobans are facing a one-in-300-year flood, but he acknowledged breaking open the dike holding back water in the Assiniboine River -- which is set to begin at 6 a.m. -- "was not an easy decision."

"We have worked to delay the timing of the release for as long as we safely could to allow more homes to be protected," he said.

Selinger said the military was still busy Friday night protecting more than 100 homes.

Calling the combination of unprecedented flood levels, fully saturated ground and bad weather at the worst possible time "a perfect storm," Selinger said an uncontrolled break would be "catastrophic and unpredictable, spilling water onto more than 500 square kilometres of land."

"And it will impact hundreds more homes, including those in the path of the controlled release."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2011 A6

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