Flooding creek cuts off roads, floods basements in western Manitoba First Nation

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Flooding creek cuts off roads, floods basements in western Manitoba First Nation

A western Manitoba First Nation is trying to deal with a series of problems related to spring melt — some more visible than others. 

In Canupawakpa Dakota First Nation, located south of Virden, Man., and about 275 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, the overflowing Pipestone Creek has cut off seven homes from the rest of the community. 

But a high water table is also leading to basement flooding and the contamination of wells for drinking water.

"This isn't actually flood water hitting the homes as much as it is groundwater," said Corey Mini, Canupawakpa's band manager.

Mini said the drinking water has been compromised at the seven homes east of the creek.

He also said seven people from two homes have been forced out this week due to flooding and another eight could be forced to leave within the next week.

Evacuees are currently staying in a hotel in Brandon, Man. Another 22 people have been cut off because of a flooded road and may also have to leave.

Residents cut off 

Farrell Benn is one of the 22 people. He was forced by flooding to leave his home on the east side of the Pipestone Creek in 2014. Knowing flooding could become an issue again, he was offered the chance to move to the other side of the creek, but chose not to. 

"I grew up on the east side and I didn't want to leave," he said. 

Benn is in a wheelchair and finds it hard to get around. He is apprehensive about leaving and said he will stay in his home as long as he can.

While the band office and store are visible from the end of his lane, it's now a 30-kilometre round trip thanks to the flooded road. 

Family members and a community health worker make the trek daily to help him with cooking, cleaning and other daily tasks. 

"Last time [in 2014], I could walk and get around," Benn said. "But now I'm in a wheelchair."

Though he would rather stay in his home than get moved to a hotel, he said "I'd evacuate if I had to."

Mini said the First Nation is looking into eventually getting the homes on the east side moved west.

Some hesitant to leave

He also said some residents are hesitant to leave their homes because for most, that's where they keep everything they own. 

"Safety of their personal belongings is their primary concern," Mini said. "They just want to be involved with their community. They're a tight-knit community, very cultural-based, unique in that sense.

"There is no place like home," he added. 

Provincial flood forecasters say overland flooding and tributary flows have started to subside across parts of southern Manitoba, but Mini said Canupawakpa will be dealing with the effects of the high water for a long time yet.