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The province and City of Winnipeg are subsidizing the installation of sump pumps for homeowners. ((Basement Systems Inc./Canadian Press))

Winnipeggers will be subsidized up to 60 per cent on the cost of installing sump pumps and backwater valves to protect basements from sewer backup in the event of a spring flood.

The coverage — up to $1,000 for a back-up valve and up to $2,000 for a sump pump and pit — is only available to residents in Winnipeg, Premier Greg Selinger and Mayor Sam Katz announced Tuesday.

Those Winnipeggers who recently had the work done are still eligible. The program, subject to approval by city council, is retroactive to May 1, 2010, in recognition of last summer's heavy rainfalls.

"We strongly advise homeowners to take action to protect their properties from the risk of sewer backup," Selinger stated in a news release. "There is a risk of damage for unprotected homes but there is still time for homeowners to install sump pumps and backwater valves."

The $1 million annual cost of the program will be shared equally by the province and the city.

Supply demands worry mayor

Katz expects residents in as many as 3,000 homes will take advantage of the offer, however a city report said current plans are to budget to provide a minimum of 330 and a maximum of 1,000 homes a subsidy each budget year.

The city wants $1.18 million for the program included in the 2011 capital budget. The province's share would be $500,000, the documents said. The city's portion would come from sewer rates, according to the report. The city would also hire two people to administer the program, the city said.

The document listed the procedure homeowners in other cities have followed to participate in similar subsidy programs:

  • Work estimates are obtained from one or more plumbing contractors.
  • Permits to install the pit and pump are obtained from the city.
  • Construction is carried out.
  • The work is inspected by the city.
  • An application to receive the subsidy is filed by the homeowner.
  • The city evaluates the request and mails out a cheque if deemed appropriate.

However, Katz expressed concern of possible price-gouging for the pumps, which some contractors said are in limited supply.

"What I'm worried about is if the demand exceeds the supply, the prices will be inflated. That is a concern," Katz said.

Homeowners must hire a plumber currently licensed by the City of Winnipeg to perform the eligible labour, ensure that appropriate permits are obtained and arrange for the necessary inspection of the work.

New home construction will not be eligible as sump pumps and backwater valves are required under the building code.

The province will contact municipalities outside Winnipeg to discuss the possibility of cost-sharing similar programs, Selinger said.

For more information on how individual Manitobans can prepare their properties for a possible flood, what to do in case of evacuation and where to get support, visit the provincial website  or call the Manitoba Government Inquiry line at 1-866-MANITOBA (6264-8622).

The City of Winnipeg's report on the program can be found here.

With files from the CBC's Leslie McLaren