Drainage a contentious issue province-wide

It comes as no surprise to the president of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities to hear of drainage issues causing conflict within a community.

“You could have two neighbours who get along just fine, and then it rains and they are at each other’s necks. There will always be frustration around drainage,” said Doug Dobrowolski. “But there are better ways to deal with it than sitting on the road yelling at your neighbour.”

Although the AMM doesn’t comment on specific drainage plans, or policies, Dobrowolski said they do lobby for more provincial funding and improved maintenance of provincial drains, which most municipal systems link into. AMM has also worked to streamline the licensing process for maintenance of existing drains, and will focus on speeding up licensing for new drainage in future lobbying.

“We spend a lot of time and effort around drainage, it’s one of our major files,” he said.

All drainage plans, including those proposed by the RM of Grey, must be licensed by Water Stewardship before implementation. Geoff Reimer, who works with Water Stewardship, said Grey’s proposal is still being assessed.

“It’s mostly conceptual right now,” Reimer said.”We haven’t been provided all the specifics of the plan yet… and so we will have to assess it once we get all the details.”

Once a licence is granted and a plan is approved, inspections take place to ensure the work proceeds as planned.

Individuals and municipalities that undertake unlicensed drainage can be fined or face legal action.

“Our primary role is to ensure drainage doesn’t have a negative impact either upstream or downstream,” said Reimer.

The local conservation district has also viewed the RM of Grey’s proposed plans.

“The potential for downstream flooding does exist because of the cleanout, but until the cleanout is done, we won’t know for sure what is going to happen,” said Justin Reid, manager of the La Salle Redboine Conservation District.

In contact

He said the conservation district has been in contact with residents of the municipality as well as councillors regarding the proposed drainage. However, districts have no regulatory authority when it comes to water management.

“We can only offer advice and recommendations,” he explained.

And that goes for conservation districts across the province, all of which work to facilitate more comprehensive water strategies including water retention areas.

Over the last number of years there has been a loss of natural water retention areas in the province that has contributed to the need for drainage, said Reid.

And illegal drainage is still a problem.

“It’s an issue across the province,” Reid said. “There are some people who still don’t know that a licence is required, others are too impatient to wait for a licence and some feel they should just be allowed to drain and go ahead.”

Dobrowolski noted that more frequent extreme weather events in recent years has also heightened awareness of drainage issues.

“There is only so much capacity; if the river is already full, where is the water going to go?” he said.

Progress

However, some progress is being made in the area of water retention.

Reid cited the Pelly’s Lake back-flood project as one example of collaborative efforts to slow the release of the spring melt and create water storage.

As part of the project’s water retention goal, more water will be added to the low-lying area near Holland using soon-to-be-installed water control structures.

The Rural Municipality of Dufferin has also introduced a $40-per-acre wetland tax credit, and Reid noted that two water retention projects are slated within the RM of Grey.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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