Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Angry farmers forced to leave

Province turns to courts to quell compensation protest at Portage Diversion

  • Print

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE -- The Manitoba government said protesters who had been blocking the opening of the Portage Diversion along the swollen Assiniboine River have moved out and the channel has been opened.

Angry farmers who complained of not being properly compensated when the diversion was used and flooded their land in 2011 had moved tractors and other pieces of large equipment into the diversion on Monday.

Government spokesman Jean-Marc Prevost said when officials threatened to open the diversion anyway and sweep away the machines, the protesters themselves moved in and began to occupy the area.

In the early evening, the government was granted an injunction by the courts allowing them to call in the RCMP to remove the protesters.

However, Prevost said eventually the protesters agreed to leave and removed their equipment.

Prevost said the action took place just in the nick of time, as a buildup of ice was nearing the diversion, which moves the water into Lake Manitoba.

Farmer Kevin Yuill said the government needs to take steps to resolve the man-made flooding of Lake Manitoba.

"In has to equal out," he told radio station CJOB. "In other words, whatever they let down the Portage Diversion has to have a way of getting out, and there has been no structure put in."

The province said in a statement Monday that a buildup of ice less than four hours away from the diversion threatened to cause significant ice-jam-related flooding if the diversion was not operated immediately.

The province also said a risk is the potential for more ice jams east of the diversion and flooding in communities such as St. Franßois Xavier and Headingley.

"There are very significant risk elements if we do not proceed to operate it," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton said.

Yuill said how the government handled the situation Monday was typical of how farmers and ranchers have been treated in the aftermath of the disastrous 2011 flood.

"Our frustration is nobody has even come to talk to us," he said. "It's just typical bullying. Just like 2011 when they flooded us out and didn't care."

Many property owners blame the NDP for not acknowledging their land was deliberately flooded two years ago when the province had to force water beyond the diversion's capacity. The level on Lake Manitoba rose dramatically and in a late-May storm, hundreds of properties were destroyed by huge waves.

Ashton responded this year is not a repeat of 2011 and that only a "minimal" amount of water will flow through the diversion compared to 2011.

He also said the delay in opening the diversion put lives at risk and pointed the finger at the Conservative Opposition for sanctioning it.

"They want to shut it down but right now the operation of the Portage Diversion is essential to protect Manitobans," Ashton told the legislature.

The protesters said the Selinger government should build an outlet on the lake to release floodwater.

"This area wasn't a flood plain before they made changes to protect Winnipeg," Yuill said while standing in the diversion, just south of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Portage, beside the Assiniboine River.

"When you direct water to save yourself, you should pay your neighbour compensation. We need some reassurance the government is doing something so when they use the diversion again there is a place for the water to get out and that there will be fair treatment for people affected."

By late Monday, Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton had lost patience with the situation, saying his one and only priority was to ensure the diversion was open to protect communities downstream.

"Anybody who's preventing that operation is putting other Manitobans at risk," he 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.

"This is not the way we do things in Manitoba. Period."


-- The Canadian Press with files from Bruce Owen and Kevin Rollason

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 30, 2013 A4

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Poll

Now that former cabinet minister Theresa Oswald has entered the NDP leadership race, do you believe the "gang of five" rebel ministers were right to publicly criticize Premier Greg Selinger's leadership?

View Results

View Related Story