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Deep ditches don’t drain

After enduring a slaphappy September due to mosquitoes, at least one southern Manitoba farmer has had his fill of poorly designed farm drains.

John Duvenaud blames drains and ditches that are dug too deep to properly function for creating a fertile breeding grounds for the pests.

The risk of West Nile virus makes that hazardous as well as irritating, he said.

“Drains should drain,” Duvenaud said, noting he believes some of the ditches in his area were constructed without the use of a level.

The main problem is drains that are dug too low for the culvert.

Winnipeg’s insect guru, Taz Stuart said standing water in ditches is always a concern for mosquito control efforts. However, if the ditches are deep enough to support cattails, they don’t attract culex tarsalis mosquitoes, which are the ones that carry West Nile, he noted.

Unfortunately, Stuart pointed out that anyone living in this “clay pot” soil will have a challenge keeping the water from pooling due to the heavy clay loam. “If we paved everything…then maybe,” he laughed.

Steve Topping, executive director of the Infrastructure and Operations Division of Manitoba Water Stewardship said municipalities and farmers must apply for a licence before undertaking drainage projects. The process entails filing a detailed plan.

“We do look for compliance as to the terms and conditions on the licence. I would not say we do a detailed survey after the fact,” he said.

Recently, the Manitoba government sent out a notice reminding landowners that ditch work, including maintenance, requires a permit. A government source said permits for clean-outs can be procured within two weeks.

Sperling-area farmer, Curtis Hiebert said farmers do an extremely good job of ditch maintenance. “Almost every farmer I know uses a laser,” he said.

Rodney Burns, reeve for the Rural Municipality of Macdonald said the flat terrain makes drain cleaning an ongoing task.

“The problems are not going to go away with licensing either,” he said. “It’s the way our land is. There’s always going to be problems with drainage.”

Burns noted there was some emergency ditch digging undertaken in southern Manitoba this year after drifting soil filled roadside ditches. The clearing efforts were contracted out to speed up the process.

“We were under the gun. If we didn’t get that dirt out of the ditch there’d have been four inches of water on the land,” he said.

But Duvenaud there is now four inches of water standing in those ditches, which virtually guarantees there will be more mosquitoes next year.

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