Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Land-use vacuum

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The reviews completed in the wake of the 2011 historic flooding on the Assiniboine River found municipalities are anxious to co-ordinate their land drainage and flood-planning efforts. For First Nations, however, the problems are far more basic -- they have no land-use policies at all to guide development.

That is telling both in terms of why those communities were often harder hit in 2011, but also why a decade or more of a wet weather cycle, producing saturated ground and overland flooding, has left First Nations to deal with flooding perennially. Homes on reserves poorly built decades ago have seen crawl spaces soaked, spurring destructive mould infestations.

The review panels heard that band governments do not have the expertise nor the money for good land-use planning or flood protection. Further, improved municipal drainage has been done at the cost of neighbouring reserves that receive the water.

Some First Nations are still working to get evacuees into new or rebuilt homes, but that makes little sense in the absence of land-use rules that reflect flood risk on new or resettled land.

Ottawa is investing, through cost-shared projects, in flood prevention to stem disaster assistance liability, but the government's first duty is to help ensure communities it is directly responsible for can keep their residents high and dry. That can only be done through adequate funding agreements that make land use planning and flood mitigation a priority on reserves.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2013 A8

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