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This article was published 11/7/2012 (3433 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Farmers in the Assiniboine Valley are demanding compensation after thousands of acres of farmland were flooded due to what they call "man-made error."
"The farmers here are so devastated you can't even imagine,"àsaid Mel Hofer, who manages Deerboine Colony north of Alexander in the Assiniboine Valley. "A natural disaster we can take, but not a man-made error. The government is using us in the valley as a reservoir for down east. Farmers can't survive this way."
Hofer believes compensation from the province for flooded acres is only fair and said farmers near Portage la Prairie were compensated last year after the government flooded land to relieve pressure from the Assiniboine River.
"We asked for the water to be lowered by four feet (in the Shellmouth Dam) and it never happened,"àHofer said. "If they would have dropped that dam, the water would have gone and the pressure from the east holding it back would have been less.
"When they opened the dam near Portage last year, they compensated everyone, and we feel we should get the same thing on this end."
Of the 50,000 acres of farmland in the valley between the Shellmouth Dam and Brandon, at least 40,000 acres will be affected by overland flooding, according to the Assiniboine Valley Producers. Hofer estimates Deerboine Colony has already lost 1,000 to 1,200 acres of crop.
"It's the timing. This year, we put the crop in and undertook all of the expense and now it's man-made error up north that is hurting us really hard,"àHofer said. "One year you could live with it, but it's three years in a row. This is the second out of the last four that we've put all the inputs in and reaped zero."
The operation of the Shellmouth Dam, which was closed to hold back water this spring due to fears of a drought, could have been handled more professionally, according to Progressive Conservative MLA Larry Maguire.
"This is worse than last year in regards to the impact on farmers because they put all of the inputs into the land,"àsaid Maguire, who represents Arthur-Virden, where some of the flooding is taking place.
Last year, the province introduced legislation that would require compensation for artificial flooding caused by the operation of the Shellmouth Dam, but according to Maguire, the province is still undergoing a study to determine just what "artificial"àmeans.
"The frustration of the farmers is quite within their rights because they don't know if they are going to get any compensation,"àMaguire said. "It almost looks like the act was put in place so they never had to make a payout.
"(Farmers in the valley) are not against others being able to use water downstream, but if these things happen and water is held back behind the dam at higher levels than have been historically, then if they are flooded out they need to have a compensation package."
Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship Gord Mackintosh was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but according to provincial cabinet spokesman Jean-Marc Prevost, the flooding was unavoidable.
"Even with a lower drawdown of the reservoir, flooding would still have occurred,"àPrevost said. "The Shellmouth Dam reservoir does not guarantee against flooding in heavy precipitation events."
Prevost said the province wants to remain flexible in their ability to aid flooded farmers.
"The province is prepared to assess if insurance programming can be modified to effectively address the unique circumstances impacting producers' lands in the Assiniboine Valley between the Shellmouth Dam and Brandon,"àPrevost said.
-- Brandon Sun