Manitoba won't allow temporary bridge over Souris River
The Manitoba government says it will not put public safety at risk by allowing a temporary bridge to be built over the Souris River, linking two communities in the province's southwestern oil patch.
The existing bridge, located on Highway 251 between Waskada and Coulter, Man., collapsed in July 2011 due to river flooding.
Waskada Mayor Gary Williams says the long detour motorists must take as a result is threatening the local economy, as it has made it difficult for oil companies to reach wells in the area.
Williams said two oil companies have offered to pay for a temporary bridge, but provincial officials have been demanding study after study of the proposal.
Lance Vigfusson, the province's assistant deputy minister of infrastructure and transportation, says the temporary bridge would cost almost as much in time and money as the permanent bridge the province plans to open next year.
"We have made this one of our top priorities. We know the impact on that corner of the world," Vigfusson told CBC News on Thursday.
"When we lose a bridge and there's no access across the river, we know what an impact that is for people."
The oil companies in question, EOG Resources and PennWest, declined comment, but area residents say the companies have offered upwards of $250,000 to construct a temporary bridge.
Williams accused the province of stalling construction of the permanent bridge, noting that the region's oil boom has meant upwards of 1,000 vehicles needing to use the bridge between the two communities.
"Either we need some help, or we need these people to step back out of the way and let this thing happen and not keep throwing up these roadblocks," Williams said.
But Vigfusson said a temporary bridge would cost about $5 million to $6 million to build. The province will spend $12 million to build the permanent bridge, he added.
"I don't know what you can build for $200,000 to $300,000. I can tell you, without a doubt, that will not meet any provincial standards at all," he said.