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Still waiting for flood compensation

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It might sound crazy, but John and Monica Griffiths say they would be happier if they got a new rowboat.

The Griffiths, who farm near Poplar Point, don’t want a luxury yacht, just a small boat to replace John’s wooden rowboat that was destroyed last year when the driver of a piece of heavy machinery accidently backed over it.

Getting compensated for their smashed boat, along with the other property damage incurred as part of last year’s flood preparations along the Assiniboine River, which borders the Griffiths’ land, is proving to be much harder than they expected.

They say they were promised they would receive compensation to restore their property soon after bulldozers, trucks and other heavy equipment were driven across their fields to raise the dike beginning in March 2011. To date, they have yet to receive any money from the province.

"We’re waiting for restoration," said Monica, adding that they haven’t heard anything about possible compensation or repairs made to their property.

A dike built to control flooding along the Assiniboine River runs through the Griffiths’ land. John said there have been four major dike projects since he was young, but none of them left as much damage as the last one.

He said that his great-grandfather purposely chose high land upon which to farm, but construction of the dike has caused flooding on part of the property.

In addition, the water level of the Assiniboine River has risen over the years since silt builds up in the river channel due to riverbank erosion.

Because the electric fencing set up to control their cattle was destroyed during the dike raising, the Griffiths were forced to keep their cattle in pens on their home section and couldn’t turn them out to pasture the past two summers.

"We had 60 head and shipped all but 26 of the best and favourite at a huge loss.  What we have now were all born since the flood," Monica said.

They have about 100 cattle and are looking at another winter of feeding them the small hay crop they were able to grow. Unless something changes quickly, they will be forced to ship off all but the core herd.

"Most of my days have been spent feed-lotting cattle," said Monica.

John said he and his wife want to replace the fencing but don’t know if they should go ahead on their own or continue to wait for provincial compensation.

An alfalfa field was damaged when machinery plowed up some of the soil and left the land badly rutted, making cultivation very difficult.

"We finally gave up waiting and took one very poor cut of hay to control weeds," Monica said.

The weeds on top of the dike running past their yard are chest-high, and looking down the steep bank, large areas of dried mud and dead trees are visible. A few years ago, this was part of the couple’s Spirit Trails Wellness Retreat which offered spiritual healing classes, energy therapy and a chance for urbanites to enjoy the beauty of the countryside.

Winnipegger Kristi Dorian recalls the natural beauty she observed when touring the fledgling retreat about five years ago.

Because access roads to the dike were destroyed when the dike was raised in 2011, the Griffiths haven’t been able to mow the area or clean up the damage.

According to the provincial government, it is actively working on these damage claims relating to construction of the Assiniboine Dike, and some have been settled. Ongoing negotiations and visitations are occurring to resolve outstanding issues.    

Morris MLA Morris Mavis Taillieu said she is aware of the damage inflicted on the Griffiths’ farm and on other properties along that section of the Assiniboine River.

Taillieu said she forwarded the names of the affected property owners located within her constituency to the province and plans to continue to pressure Premier Greg Selinger to make good on promises made to the land owners.

"There was a promise made and it was not kept," she said.

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