FINDINGS of two University of Manitoba researchers that the proposed site for relocating Lake St. Martin residents is soggy, unfit and at risk of future flood contradicts evidence before the province that the land is solid, high and dry. The claims out of the Natural Resources Institute are worrisome. More than 1,000 reserve residents are still awaiting a home since the 2011 Lake Manitoba flood. Their new community must be resilient and permanent.
The new site was chosen from three potential locations after protracted argument and negotiation, and was approved in May by the province, the First Nation and Ottawa. The latter two each hired engineer assessments that found it dry, with good drainage that makes development feasible.
But Prof. Shirley Thompson and research associate Myrle Ballard say soil there is soggy, and saturated until well into spring.
The province says the so-called Halaburda site is high and dry, some six metres higher than the current reserve, and once-private land purchased to enlarge the full tract has been improved by the previous owners to support hay crops. Ms. Thompson and Ms. Ballard further believe provincial plans to build a permanent channel to augment the draining of Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin into Lake Winnipeg will exacerbate the flood potential of the site.
The First Nation has the most to lose in this proposal. It should make available its engineering reports to the researchers to compare soil and drainage assessments.
At one time land abutting Lake St. Martin was regarded as solid and productive but a lengthy wet cycle, combined with the use of the Fairford water-control structure, has turned it soggy. The band must be assured the Halaburda site will withstand a rising water table and future flood risk.