Daily talks between the Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers about flooding appears to have paid off, says KAP president Doug Chorney.
The province adopted KAP’s call for 100 per cent compensation for farmers artificially flooded, including lost income, in the Manitoba government’s Flood 2011 Building and Recovery Action Plan announced May 24 by Premier Greg Selinger.
“The government is making a real effort in reaction to the flooding,” the East Selkirk farmer said from his farm May 26.
There will always be cases that don’t fit into the program and KAP is working with the province to address them, he added.
One of those “cases” has already appeared, Chorney said. Normally farms and other businesses with gross sales of more than $2 million a year are ineligible for aid through Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA). The limit was only raised for those affected by artificial flooding. That means some large farms, including perhaps Hutterite colonies damaged by the Assiniboine flooding, won’t qualify, Chorney said.
“It’s very important for farmers to complete a Disaster Financial Aid application and get into the system and start to get processed,” he said.
PAYMENTS TO FLOW
The Manitoba government estimates up to $70 million will be paid to property and business owners under its special compensation program aimed at those artificially flooded by the cut in the dike at Hoop and Holler Bend and the Portage Diversion near Portage la Prairie, along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba and in the Shoal Lakes area. Of that, an estimated $44 million will go to farmers.
All other flood victims will be compensated through DFA. Application forms and further details about the program are available online at www.manitobaemo.ca or by contacting the Manitoba Emergency Measures Organization at 204- 945-3050 or 1-888-267-8298. Applications are also available at most municipal offices.
Portage la Prairie-area vegetable farmer Doug Connery says the program looks good on paper. But he is reserving judgment until he sees the compensation.
Not nearly as much water was released at Hoop and Holler Bend as first expected so Connery’s valuable strawberry and asparagus fields were spared. However, the threat of flooding prevented Connery from seeding some fields of broccoli and carrots.
“When you do weekly seeding for weekly sales you don’t make that up, it’s lost,” he said last week.
The government maintains the level of Lake Manitoba would be almost two feet higher under natural conditions – that is without the Portage Diversion or the Fairford structure. While the diversion is pouring in water from the Assiniboine River that would end up in Lake Winnipeg, the Fairford outlet, built in 1961, enhances the lake’s outflow.
Still, Selinger said Lake Manitoba farmers deserve special aid because even more water than normal is being diverted into the lake.
“It’s a special program because it’s a special set of circumstances,” he said.
Sel inger also promised applicants will receive their compensation quickly.
An appeals commissioner will also be appointed to promptly and fairly deal with any appeals that may arise.
Selinger also announced plans for future flood protection, including:
Modernizing the Shel lmouth Dam control structure and adding spillway gates to improve flood protection.
Constructing one-in300-year flood protection for Brandon.
Major rehabilitation of the Portage Diversion.
Repair of and making permanent the Assiniboine River dikes built over the winter between Portage and Baie St. Paul.
Assessment of alternatives to enhance the capacity of the Assiniboine River, Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin flood-control systems including options to increase outflow (Fairford) from Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin.
Extension of the community diking program for an additional two years to build more dikes including in the Assiniboine basin.
Expansion and extension of the province’s Individual Flood Mitigation Program to protect homes and property.
With water levels continuing to rise on Lake Manitoba, municipalities, and home and cottage owners around the lake will have access to significant financial support to hire engineers to identify effective flood-proofing measures, Selinger said.
Financial support of up to 90 per cent of the cost of raising or moving homes and cottages on Lake Manitoba to protect against damage from flooding and storms will also be available to a maximum of $20,000.
The government will take a “watershed-wide” look at mitigation, an official said.
“There’s pressure to have more drainage,” Selinger said.
“But we know wetlands are important, we know that the ability to store water is important and we also know for producers the ability to drain water off their land so they can make a living is important and striking the right balance is going to be key as we go forward.”