Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/5/2012 (3353 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Assiniboine Valley farmers operating near the Shellmouth Reservoir northwest of Russell thought they'd harvest a crop this year.
After all, nine months of very dry weather had led growers and water-management experts alike to fear a drought -- not flooding -- along the Assiniboine River in 2012.
Last year, the dozens of farmers who raise crops and livestock near the dam -- and many more downstream -- saw their fields flooded. Planting was impossible. But the dry weather that began last July and persisted until April allowed them to clear their fields of debris and get them in shape for planting. And plant they did -- from fenceline to fenceline.
But now, those who farm nearest to the dam fear the once near-empty reservoir will soon overflow again. Because of drought fears, the province conserved water in the reservoir. But because of higher-than-normal rains in April and May, the dam is just a foot from overflowing, leaving growers worried the investment they made in preparing and seeding their fields will go for naught.
Some farmers are alleging the government has failed to manage the reservoir properly. They say the province should have released water from the reservoir earlier than it did. Now it may be too late, as water from recent storms is entering the dam faster than it is being released down the Assiniboine River. Manitoba Water Stewardship has been releasing 1,580 cubic feet per second from the reservoir -- the maximum the river can handle at that point -- since April 10. It had been letting out smaller amounts since March.
Farmers near the dam feel they've been sacrificed for the sake of those living further downstream.
"They hold back enough water so that they make sure there's not going to be a shortage for the cities and for irrigation and... recreation," said Stan Cochrane, chairman of the Assiniboine Valley Producers Association. "And if there is a flood, oh well, we just flooded out a few farmers."
Conservative MLA Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden) has been championing their cause in the legislature, raising questions about whether outflows from the reservoir were mismanaged and asking for assurances farmers operating near the dam will be compensated if their land is flooded artificially.
"They are very concerned," Maguire said of the dozens of farmers. Producers farther downstream are not threatened, nor are any towns.
Steve Topping, the province's point man on flooding, said until the end of March, the main concern was drought. Would there be enough water for downstream municipalities and farmers? Then the rains came. For instance, in Yorkton, which drains into the Assiniboine, 63.6 millimetres of rain fell in April. Another 97 mm have fallen so far this month. Both totals are much higher than normal.
There's still a decent chance the reservoir won't spill over, Topping said.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.