Farmers in western Manitoba worry about flooding despite dry conditions
50,000 to 60,000 acres of Manitoba farmland at risk, says farmer Cliff Trinder
Cliff Trinder farms south of the Shellmouth Dam, between Russell and Binscarth, Man. He also sits on the province's advisory committee for the dam.
Trinder alleges farmers in Saskatchewan are illegally draining to cultivate more land and that means more water is flowing down the Assiniboine River.
"You'll see miles and miles of this in Saskatchewan. This is happening all over the place," said Trinder of the illegal draining.
Approximately 10 per cent of Trinder's land is now underwater since the Shellmouth Dam let out more water flowing east from Saskatchewan. The province estimates the water will crest next week.
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"That wall of water, it's not like a huge flash flood but that wall of water, it's kind of insidious. It just keeps coming down there," said Trinder.
He estimates about 50,000 to 60,000 acres of Manitoba farmland is at risk of flooding again this year because of the amount of water coming from Saskatchewan.
"For most producers under this water it's another year lost. It's discouraging. There's a lot of people up here who are extremely angry," he said.
"Manitoba's got an agreement with Saskatchewan and what bothers me is that we're having these problems in Manitoba and this has been continual for the last 12 years. We've hardly had any use of this land in that period. Manitoba's got a memorandum of understanding with Saskatchewan and [the illegal drainage] is still happening under that," he said.
If Manitoba did not operate the Shellmouth Dam, Trinder said, land would still be flooded but the water would come and go more quickly, instead of a protracted flood that impedes the growing season.
"The problem is, if this was a natural flood we'd have a few more acres under water. But it would be here for a few days and gone. And then we'd be back to normal," Trinder said.
Trinder wants Manitoba and Saskatchewan to rewrite their water stewardship policies.
"We've got to have an entire rethink. We're in trouble here. I would expect the drainage is going to contribute so much future flow into the Assiniboine River that Manitoba's protections, that being the Shellmouth Dam, is surpassed now. We can't let this stuff keep going on," he said.
with files from Susan Magas