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Problems continue with high Assiniboine River level

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Monica and John Griffiths are shown in September 2012 standing on the top of the dike that separates their home from the Assiniboine River.

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Monica and John Griffiths are shown in September 2012 standing on the top of the dike that separates their home from the Assiniboine River. Photo Store

It’s like Groundhog Day for Poplar Point farmers John and Monica Griffiths.

Not unlike the protagonist of the 1993 film starring Bill Murray, the Griffiths find themselves reliving the same scenario over and over again. Once again, they are busy pumping water out of their basement and watching water from the adjacent Assiniboine River seep into the low-lying spots on their property.

"You’re back in the same boat," Monica said.

In fact, the couple, who raise cattle on the 600-acre farm that’s been in John’s family since the 1920s, are still waiting for some compensation and for repairs to be made to their property, which was damaged during flood preparations in March 2011.

At that time, provincial employees and contractors scrambled to raise the earthen dike that runs along the Griffiths’ land next to the Assiniboine River. Prior to the 2011 flood, the couple had used the natural beauty of the riverside forest in their Spirit Trails Wellness Retreat.
When interviewed in August 2012, they said damage to the riverside area hadn’t been repaired because access roads to the dike were destroyed, leaving them unable to mow and clean up the area.

Their cattle operation was returning to normal this spring, with supplies delivered to replace the electric fencing destroyed in 2011, when their lives were again disrupted beginning on May 21. That day, the Assiniboine River’s flow east of the Portage Diversion was increased to 12,500 cubic feet per second.

Monica said river water began seeping through the earthen dike and saturating the ground, but this slowed when water levels were reduced to 10,500 cfs.

The situation changed again in early July as the Griffiths and others living along the lower Assiniboine River in the RMs of Cartier, St. Francois Xavier and Headingley were told to prepare for river levels equal to those of the 2011 flood, plus an extra three feet.

Since the dike on their property had been raised in 2011, the Griffiths didn’t need to make it any higher.

"It held here, but not in other places," Monica said.

Even though water didn’t come over the top of the dike, it did resume seeping through, causing flooding in their basement and on sections of their property.

"Because of 2011, we’re a little smarter now," Monica said.

She now knows which provincial employee to contact to arrange for damage inspections. She said she and John are wary about paying for repair work until they receive government compensation.

"Our fencing is just sitting here," she said on July 22, but added that they’d moved their cows to higher ground.

The Griffiths are now waiting for the Assiniboine to recede so they can once again start making plans to restore their basement and hopefully recover the farmland that’s now too wet to be used for pasture or growing alfalfa.

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