As harvest season approaches, Manitoba Infrastructure and the RM of Morris have come up with a plan to help farmers inconvenienced by a road washout south of Aubigny.
Reeve Ralph Groening said council met Friday with Midland MLA Blaine Pedersen, and accepted an offer from the province to upgrade two dirt roads in the vicinity of a closed section of Provincial Road 246.
Groening said 1.5 miles of Road 29N and one mile of Road 9E will be gravelled beginning this week.
Provincial Road 246, which runs parallel to the Red River, is an important agricultural thoroughfare. Several homes are also located along the stretch between Morris and Aubigny that has been closed to through traffic since July 9, when two days of heavy rains dumped an estimated 180 millimetres (seven inches) of moisture on the area.
Peering down into the resulting crater last week, Groening said the three large culverts underneath the road were known to be compromised before the rain arrived.
A spokesperson for Manitoba Infrastructure said in an email the culverts "were functional but nearing the end of their lifespan." They were approved for replacement prior to the rains, but were being monitored while engineers worked on a long-term solution that would also fix the slope on the road’s west side, the spokesperson explained.
When the washout occurred, Groening said the municipality was told the road would be repaired by August. But late last month, that timeline was later revised to October.
The province’s spokesperson said further inspections resulted in the longer timeline. Groening said he was told the large culverts were a special-order item that would take longer to arrive.
Within days of the road closure, farmers began calling Groening asking for updates. One told the reeve he grows oats south of the washout, but stores them in bins north of the washout. Another said he will have 1,000 semi-loads of hay to move down the road over the next six weeks.
Groening said he hopes the new gravel detour will allow farmers to complete their harvest with minimal inconvenience.
He added he remains confident Provincial Road 246 will eventually be repaired, as the province won’t abandon an important flood route.