Flood damage to roads, culverts estimated in the millions in southwestern Manitoba

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Flood damage to roads, culverts estimated in the millions in southwestern Manitoba

The spring melt may have started more than a month ago but people in southwestern Manitoba are still feeling the effects of the high water, and will be cleaning up millions of dollars in damage for the foreseeable future. 

In the municipality of Two Borders, in the southwestern corner of Manitoba, Reeve Debbie McMechan estimated that the carnage of this spring's flooding could top $4 million, as the municipality grapples with washed-out roads, damaged culverts and other destruction caused by the high water.

"This was as bad as 2011 for us for sure," she said, referring to the scale of damage in the municipality. However, costs associated with the damage are lower this year than in 2011.

"It's pretty demoralizing," McMechan added when asked to describe surveying the damage at flood sites. "It's not a pretty thing and it also represents an awful lot of work."

McMechan said there are more than 100 sites in her municipality that need to be repaired. Staff still haven't even been able to reach some sites to survey the extent of the damage. 

Councillors and municipal staff will meet Friday to review the number of repair sites they're looking at, and which are high-priority.

This year's estimated $4 million in damage adds to tens of millions of dollars in damage sustained since 2011. 

"It seems like since 2011, we've been in this wreck-and-repair cycle," McMechan said.

She said there is no single solution that will prevent the municipality from sustaining millions of dollars in damage every year.

However, she said some infrastructure has been upgraded in recent years to withstand what she described as the "new normal" for the area.

The damage isn't as bad this year in some other areas, though.

Further to the north and east, in the municipality of Oakland-Wawanesa, the situation is substantially better.

Mayor Dave Kreklewich estimates between sandbagging, washed-out culverts and road repairs, the municipality will spend only about $30,000 on flooding this year. 

In Souris, Man., Mayor Darryl Jackson said it's still too early to know the full extent of the damage — both in town and in rural areas — because water levels are still high on creeks and rivers in the area. 

Flood affecting oil field

But in Two Borders, not only are the yearly floods costly for the municipality, area farmers and residents — they're also costly for those who work in southwestern Manitoba's oil fields.

"They may not have access to roads that they would need to get to," McMechan said. "We're having to spend more money to put more gravel on the roads to try and firm it up so those guys can do business." 

The municipality is at the bottom of a basin, McMechan said, which means water flows in from Saskatchewan from the west and North Dakota from the south and pools in the area.

While talks with Saskatchewan regarding drainage have started, it's still a fragile situation, she said.

'We're neighbours'

While in Brandon last week, Premier Brian Pallister said he will continue discussions with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall regarding drainage and water management between the two provinces. 

"We're neighbours, after all," he said, acknowledging that significant repairs are needed in the southwest this year. 

"Work that should have been done a decade ago is getting done now," Pallister said. 

The province announced this week that disaster financial assistance will be available for eligible municipalities, homeowners, farms and small businesses affected by flooding, much to the relief of McMechan. 

But while financial help is welcome news, she says staff will be cleaning up well into the summer. 

"The fact of the matter is it still has to be cleaned up and fixed up," she said.