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Souris River study team seeks public input

Water engineers need to hear adjacent landowners’ particulars on how the river’s flows affect them

A team of researchers is seeking input from landowners along the Souris River about the condition of the Souris River and how its flows are affecting them.

The responses will help the International Souris River Study Board, which has posted an online questionnaire, as it reviews the operating rules and eventually makes recommendations that best reflect the needs and challenges of basin communities on both sides of the border.

The study got underway after devastating flooding in 2011 when landowners and communities were hit hard all along the 435-mile river, originating in Saskatchewan and passing through North Dakota before crossing into Manitoba and joining the Assiniboine River.

They really hope there’ll be strong public responses to this questionnaire, said Debbie McMechan, the Canadian co-chair of the board’s public advisory group.

“Broad public participation is absolutely crucial. We want to hear from anybody living in the basin,” said McMechan.

The detail the public provides, including reporting incidents of flooding or other experiences of the river’s flow can be used by water engineers working on operating systems for the river’s reservoirs, she said.

“Those small changes can mean a difference in the quality of our interaction with the river,” said McMechan, who is also the reeve of the Municipality of Two Borders.

Flows on the Souris in Manitoba are of ongoing concern, and not just in times of excess moisture and flooding, she said.

“As much as we get worried about the water coming, we sure get worried when it doesn’t, too.”

This past dry year there was no water flowing in the river and there were reports of large fish kills in the section of the river running through Two Borders, she said.

Public responses to the questionnaire will help the technical experts better understand the impacts and benefits to communities in different parts of the basin as flows increase and water levels reach different elevations.

The study is also identifying and collecting information needed to consider various operating scenarios and to better understand flows, rainfall, snowmelt, and water evaporation in the basin.

“A slightly different operating protocol may be beneficial for everyone,” she added.

The Souris River study will, among other things, determine whether the operating rules are clear and understandable and recommend changes to clarify the language of the 1989 Agreement between Canada and the United States for Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin.

The online questionnaire is up until November 12, 2018, as a first phase using public input to be completed by next February 2019.

The public will be invited to provide further input as the study progresses.

The questionnaire and more information about the study is found at the International Souris River Study Board website.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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