Farmers end protest at Portage Diversion
Tractors and other equipment used to create blockade at flood control structure
Dozens of farmers who blocked access to the Portage Diversion on Monday have agreed to end their protest, enabling the province to open the flood control structure.
A group of between 50 and 60 protesters, who live and farm around Lake Manitoba, had set up a half-dozen tractors and other equipment around midday to prevent the government from operating diversion, which redirects Assiniboine River flood water from an inlet near Portage la Prairie to Lake Manitoba, 29 kilometres to the north.
The government wanted to activate the diversion much earlier in the day, citing concerns that a build-up of ice is approaching the structure and could create significant ice jams and flooding.
But it wasn't until the evening that the province received a court injunctionto remove the protesters from the site. The RCMP went to the group and began negotiating a possible meeting with the province, the CBC's Alana Cole reported.
Kevin Yuill, a spokesman for the group, told CBC News shortly after 11 p.m. that the farmers agreed to remove their equipment.
The diversion was opened soon after.
Yuill said they negotiated a plan to meet with the province, although details of that meeting are being worked out.
Farmers want guarantees
While the Portage Diversion has saved the Winnipeg area from the roaring Assiniboine, the amount of water it fed into Lake Manitoba has caused devastation to many other communities and farmland.
"We just decided that, you know, they didn't pay us for the last time they stored water on our property and we don't want to store no more until they pay up for what's still owing from the 2011 flood," Joe Johnson, who farms near Langruth, said earlier Monday.
Jonasson said he and other farmers want compensation for damages from that forced flood of their land.
"I'll tell you, the province is not short of money. The number of provincial trucks that keep driving, idling up and down across the flood structure here is just endless," he said.
Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton called the protest irresponsible, saying ice jams could cause problems for several communities, including Headingley, St. Francois Xavier, Portage la Prairie and Cartier.
"Given the significant risk if we continue with current flows not to operate the Portage Diversion, we've given notice that we will be operating the Portage Diversion," he told reporters in Winnipeg that afternoon.
A spokesman for the province told CBC News that property owners on the shores of Lake Manitoba have received more than $115 million in compensation from the 2011 flood.