Politicians, farmers team up to find long-term flood solutions for Assiniboine River Valley

BRANDON — The short-term flooding crisis has farmers, non government organizations and politicians aggressively promoting a long-term solution to Assiniboine River water issues.

People gathered at a Keystone Agricultural Producers’ general meeting in Brandon July 10 seemed to rally behind the formation of an Assiniboine River basin commission.

“I don’t think we can ignore the need for a long-term solution and I think the Assiniboine basin commission is going to move us in that direction,” said KAP president Doug Chorney.

“The alternative is what we’re seeing from Saskatchewan right now.”

Federal Conservative member of Parliament for Brandon, Larry Maguire, sounded the same note.

“A long-term strategy is needed to mitigate against the constant flooding that Manitoba is facing year after year after year,” he said.

In 2011 the Assiniboine was said to be experiencing a “once in 300 years” flood, but the present flood is just as bad. 

For decades, Manitoba farmers have aggressively drained farmland in the Red River valley and elsewhere, creating tensions within the province between those higher up stream.

However, recent drainage in eastern Saskatchewan in the province’s pothole region, has angered Manitoba farmers affected by flooding from the Shellmouth dam south.

With the Assiniboine watershed lying in Manitoba, North Dakota and Saskatchewan, many say only a trans-border organization like an Assiniboine River commission is likely to be successful.

Maguire said provincial and state governments need to support the commission or it won’t be able to achieve much.

Dauphin area farmer Rob Brunel noted that everyone seems to be OK with the idea of holding back water on farm fields in some way, but it won’t happen for free with farmers carrying the cost.

“Who’s going to pay us to farm water,” said Brunel.

“If that’s what you’re going to use my land for, then you need some proper compensation.”