Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Farmer views damaged fields; court order prohibits him from going into diversion
An RM of Portage la Prairie farmer under a court order preventing him from going into the Portage Diversion is upset that water is again draining out of it onto adjacent fields.
Farmer Kevin Yuill said that while Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton said he would meet with farmers, they’re still waiting to hear back from him.
Yuill said today that he went to the site only after hearing a provincial official say the court order just prevented him from going into the Portage Diversion — but not on top of it — to see how much water was flowing out of the diversion onto adjacent land, including land that he owns nearby.
"That’s stupid — there’s 20 feet of water in there (the diversion)," Yuill said from a cellphone at the site. "We’d be stupid to go in there."
Yuill said he can see there is a section about 300 metres long which has water flowing out of the diversion into the Crown land beside it. He said so far it’s not as bad as 2011, when the water went further and flooded 700 acres of his land, but there’s still about 12 to 24 centimetres of water on a small section of the Crown land and it’s growing.
"This goes on every year — that’s why we’re so upset," he said.
The court order was issued against Yuill and other farmers who took part in a protest on Monday by parking farm equipment at the bottom of the diversion.
The farmers were upset the province still hasn’t paid them compensation for all the losses they suffered in 2011 and in 2012 when the land still wasn’t in full production.
The farmers, and other residents around Lake Manitoba, also want the province to put in a larger outlet to get water out of the north end of Lake Manitoba.
But the province quickly went to the courts because it feared communities downstream on the Assiniboine River were at risk of flooding if the diversion wasn’t used immediately. As it was, it was able to open the gates on Monday at about 11 p.m., 12 hours later than planned, after the farmers left.
On Monday, Ashton said "People are entitled, if they have issues, to protest, to request meetings. You cross the line when you end up trespassing and moving to impede the operation of flood protection."
But Yuill said even though they asked on Tuesday morning for a meeting, and then again today, they still have not received a reply from the province.
Doug McNeil, deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation, said the province will contact the farmers today to set up a meeting for either tomorrow or early next week.
McNeil said the water flowing out of the diversion at this time is because the original designers installed a ‘fail safe’ to allow it to happen when flows went above 15,000 cubic feet per second. Currently there is 15,100 cfs flowing through the diversion leaving only 5,300 cfs going down the Assiniboine River.
"I can only imagine the original designers didn’t think it would happen that often, but it has been eight times since 1974," McNeil said, adding that during the 2011 flood 34,000 cfs was flowing into the diversion so 20,000 cfs was coming out of the fail-safe onto adjacent farmers’ fields.
Updated on Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 1:45 PM CDT: corrects headline
3:58 PM: Clarifies area of land currently under water.
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