With as much as 95 per cent of farm land estimated unseeded, and roughly 40 miles of roads closed and unfit to travel due to water the RM of Edward in the southwestern corner of Manitoba declared a state of emergency June 5.
“It’s a real mess,” said Reeve Ralph Wang June 9. “It’s dry further east so people don’t really understand what’s going on out here.”
Their RM’s road conditions are so poor, school buses haven’t been getting through in some locations, and emergency services are impeded, Wang said.
Rainfall has been excessive and has combined with water draining in from nearby Saskatchewan, he said.
His rain gauge registered four inches of rainfall last week “but it was wet before that,” said Wang, who lives just a half mile from the Saskatchewan border near Pierson.
The RM of Edward council planned to meet this week to further assess the situation. RM councillor Debbie McMechan describes Edward as “a watery ghetto” whose residents are at risk because neither fire nor ambulance services can get through if needed. There have been 40 washouts of roadways and four families were on evacuation alert at press time this week.
Some families have been driving their kids part way to school because their school bus can’t risk the sodden, softened roadways.
“They are just goo in places,” she said. “We’ve had some kids who haven’t been picked up at their homes for going on a month, the roads are that bad.”
Farmers can’t move farm equipment in such conditions and face the all-too-familiar predicament of being unable to get their crops seeded into the water-logged fields. “We have farmers around here going on three years (without seeding),” she said.
The municipality’s oil industry also came to a standstill last week with equipment movers advised by the RM not to risk the road conditions. That was no easy decision to reach, given their municipality is the third largest oil producer in the province, McMechen added.
McMechan said what they’re experiencing is the impact not only of excessive rainfall but provincial policies.
“There’s a few factors that have led to this,” she said.“One is the wholesale drainage of farm land from Saskatchewan. They have a Wild West policy where drainage is concerned and they just go draining with backhoes there. At the same time we’ve been restricted fairly tightly by our provincial government on drainage. We’re a sponge and we’re trapped between two policies. We’ve become a water retention area.”
Edward’s state of emergency is expected to remain in effect indefinitely, she added.
“Until we can get some assessment on fixing the roads, I expect we’re going to have to stay in this state because nothing will change.”