KAP News & Media

KAP News and Media

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July 5, 2012

Farmers fear for livelihoods, environment as Assiniboine continues yearly flooding

Keystone Agricultural Producers is calling on the Manitoba government to take short and long-term action to address the flooding on the Assiniboine River downstream from the Shellmouth Reservoir that has stopped farming in the area for the third year running.

KAP president Doug Chorney said the release of water from the reservoir into the Assiniboine has never been done in a manner that considers the interests of farmers.

“This past year is a classic case,” he said. “Drought from July 2011 to April 2012 meant that water was held back in reserve all last fall and winter to ensure adequate levels for recreation purposes come summer.

“But then it rained in the spring and water was dumped from the reservoir – right after farmers had seeded. We’re talking about livelihoods being destroyed over and over again.”

Chorney added that the problem has been compounded by an agreement with Saskatchewan that allows water from Fishing Lake to flow into Manitoba.

The provincial flood compensation program announced several years ago is not working, he said, because of a distinction between "artificial" and "natural" flood levels that makes it difficult for farmers to qualify. As well, they are at a disadvantage when they take out crop insurance contracts.

Stan Cochrane, a farmer in the affected area and the president of the Assiniboine Valley Producers Association, said the flooding has created a very significant environmental problem in addition to the economic one.

“There is major flooding on the Assiniboine from the Shellmouth Reservoir to Miniota, and it is working its way downstream towards Brandon,” he said. “There are trees and river banks collapsing into the water on a daily basis, wildlife is being lost, and riparian areas are being destroyed in a way that is going to have long- term effect on the valley.

“All of the material that is going into the river will eventually settle downstream to create a silt and debris problem for someone else.”

Both Chorney and Cochrane are urging the Province to:

  • Immediately reduce the amount of flow from the Shellmouth Reservoir into the Assiniboine River.
  • Work with Saskatchewan and the federal government to create a formal inter-provincial body to regulate water flows.
  • Instruct the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation to develop fair crop insurance contracts for affected farmers.
  • Change the existing compensation program so that flooded-out farmers can access the compensation owed to them.
  • Develop a fair and reasonable package to buy out the most-affected farmers.
“Flooding has happened consistently over the history of the Shellmouth Reservoir,” said Chorney. “We need to develop creative solutions for farmers and for the environment once and for all.”

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Concerned Manitobans are invited to share their ideas on this topic with Doug Chorney this Friday, July 6, from 9:10 to 10 a.m. on CKLQ radio (Brandon) – where he will be taking calls on the Feedback phone-in show.

For more information, please contact:
Doug Chorney, president: 204-785-3626
Val Ominski, communications co-ordinator: 204-697-1140

Keystone Agricultural Producers is Manitoba’s largest general farm policy organization, representing over 7,000 farm families and 22 commodity groups throughout the province. Our strength is our democratic structure, and our mission is to represent and promote the interests of the province’s farm families.