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Flooding Continues To Bog Down Producers

On a quiet stretch of road by North Shoal Lake, Howard Hilstrom pulls over to talk flooding with a group of neighbours.

The flood isn t over for us, it s just as bad as it was this spring, said the cattle producer and former member of parliament.

He noted three provincial roads in the Shoal Lakes Area have closed due to rising lake levels, causing difficulties for emergency services and school-age children.

But Hilstrom, who heads the Shoal Lakes Flooded Landowners Association, said progress has been made on the Shoal Lakes Agriculture Flooding Assistance Program over the summer months.

It s been moving along satisfactorily, and assessments are starting now, said Hilstrom. The fact is, these are no longer viable farms.

A year following the release of a report that concluded it would be less expensive to buy out landowners flooded by the rising Shoal Lakes than to install drainage, the province has initiated a voluntary buyout program. The estimated cost of paying people to leave totals $22 million over three years.

The Crown Land Property Agency and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives are currently meeting with individual applicants and Manitoba Conservation officials have begun to undertake environmental assessments of farm properties.

Hilstrom expects it will be late fall before the appraisals are completed. This isn t how we expected to be closing down our farming business and we have mixed feelings about it, but we also know we can t continue farming with all our land flooded, he said.

The producer said people began talking about the need for an outlet for the Shoal Lakes about 10 years ago and he would have liked to have seen action taken sooner, before the situation became so dire.

But it has become clear to Hilstrom and others that the flooding is a long-term issue, even if it faded from public attention after this year s spring flooding died down.

Don t really hear about it too much now, said Gerald Tom who farms with his wife Christine near the junction of Ideal Rd. and PR 229. Founded more than a century ago, their farm is also about to be bought out.

Standing in front of his home he pointed to a distant tree, the old shoreline. Now water edges up to the road in front of the couple s home, leaving them wondering what comes next.

We re too young to retire, Christine said.

Farmers in the areas surrounding Lake Manitoba are also continuing to feel the effects of high water.

Michelle Teichroeb has a cattle operation near Langruth and wonders how past actions may have contributed to the current swelling of Manitoba s waterways.

If we continue to drain, drain, drain, we can t expect any other results except that the lake will flood, she said. We re all in this together. It isn t just the Portage Diversion that caused this flooding, the water came to the Portage Diversion from a variety of sources, and it came quickly, too quickly. So we have to ask why the melting snow and water hit the rivers so quickly.

Teichroeb suggested slowing the water down, or finding ways to store it as part of a long-term solution for Manitoba s water troubles.

But in the meantime, she and husband Tom are left with 250 cows grazing on rented pasture. Only 25 out of their 500 acres could be hayed this year.

Everything you do to keep going involves putting money out, she said. Personally, I don t think next spring will be any better.

To make matters worse, Teichroeb said she has not received any compensation from the province for flooded lands, describing the application process as difficult.

The province plans to lower Lake Manitoba levels by digging an outflow channel from Lake St. Martin to Big Buffalo Lake. The channel is expected to handle flows of up to 9,000 cubic feet per second, depending on lake levels, when it becomes operational.

From Big Buffalo Lake, the water will follow natural channels to the Dauphin River. Both Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin drain into Lake Winnipeg through the Dauphin River.

Work began on the five-mile channel in late July, and the province hopes the project will be completed this fall.

But those most affected are skeptical the project will solve their concerns.

Morgan Sigurdson has cattle in the Lake Manitoba Narrows, or at least he once did. He has moved more than 250 cow-calf pairs off his flooded property near Reykjavik and needs to find a place for them to winter over in the next two weeks.

I want to keep my cows, but I keep being told to just sell them, said Sigurdson, who is staying with his parents after being evacuated from his home.

I have a dike eight or nine feet high running through my yard, my garden. They even cut down my oak trees, he said.

Sigurdson has applied to the province for funding so that he can build temporary barns for the winter, and install water and electricity in temporary paddocks. But he has been told the province won t cover the cost of permanent infrastructure. However, he is eligible for infrastructure damage payments equalling $110 per cow.

Believe me, I don t want Hydro and a well in my alfalfa fields. But I ve never met a calf that put on a lot of weight licking snow and living in the bush, he added. shannon. [email protected]


Believeme,Idon twantHydroanda wellinmyalfalfafields.ButI venever metacalfthatputonalotofweight lickingsnowandlivinginthebush.

Morgan Sigurdson

About the author


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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