Manitoba

Tree debris cleanup could take a year, City of Winnipeg forester says

The state of trees following last week's snow storm is "absolutely devastating," says forester Martha Barwinsky.

City opens more drop-off locations for storm-related wood waste

Workers from Saskatoon, Regina and Calgary are joining Winnipeg in the cleanup effort. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A City of Winnipeg forester isn't mincing words when it comes to the state of trees following last week's snowstorm.

The damage is "absolutely devastating," said Martha Barwinsky, following a storm that brought strong winds and wet, heavy snow, which felled trees and knocked out power for days in some cases.

"With that added weight of the freezing rain and the wet snow and … with the winds, of course that resulted in significant damage," she said Thursday.

Officials estimate at least 30,000 city-owned trees were affected by the storm. That doesn't count trees on private property.

The storm caused so much damage that it may be up to three weeks before the city can start focusing on removing tree debris from public property, Barwinsky said.

Right now, city crews are focused on cutting down dangerous branches and damaged trees, she said, after which they'll focus on cleaning the debris from boulevards and other city property.

Barwinsky said crews from Saskatoon, Regina and Calgary are coming with bucket trucks to help the more than 100 Winnipeg crews as they clean up the city.

"We've got all hands on deck," she said, but it's a big project to handle.

City crews have about a year's worth of work ahead of them to clean up all the tree debris left after the snowstorm late last week, forester Martha Barwinsky says. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Storm-related damage is compounding the other issues the city's trees are facing, including Dutch elm disease, dry summer conditions and the presence of emerald ash borers, Barwinsky said.

She said it will likely take a year to clean up all the tree debris, and about five years to complete all the required replanting — but that's in part because thousands of standing trees need to be destroyed due to insect infestations and disease.

Mayor Brian Bowman said Thursday there are a lot of moving parts to this situation because funding from the provincial government hasn't been secured yet.

"We're working through administrative channels now to have better guidance from the provincial government on what will be likely supported by the provincial government that will help, and how we can better coordinate our collective resources," he said.

That uncertainty hasn't held the city back from spending the money necessary to begin the cleanup, though.

"The public service has been using all available resources to proceed and by resources I mean equipment, people," Bowman said.

More drop-off locations

While the city is dealing with fallen trees and branches on public property — including boulevards, medians and city-owned parks — property owners are responsible for clearing their own debris.

The city is temporarily extending hours at its 4R recycling and composting depots, including the depot at the Brady Road landfill, for people who are seeking to get rid of storm-related wood waste. They will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through to Sunday.

Tree cleanup continues Thursday, a week after the city was pummelled by a snowstorm. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

In addition, the northwest Summit Road landfill will be open to residents weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., effective Friday.

The city is still mulling whether it will open more locations to take debris from private property.

Be careful

Barwinsky says there are a number of dangerous situations facing Winnipeggers following the storm, whether they're working on cleanup or just walking around. 

She's warning drivers and pedestrians to be alert.

"As you are driving, as you are walking, look up, look around you. Be mindful of large, broken, hanging limbs, as we continue to address those risks," she said.

Eric Vielfaure has a lot of cleanup to do at his St. Boniface home following the storm that hammered Winnipeg late last week. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Meanwhile, city crews are blocking off roads that could be hazardous to drivers and pedestrians. Barwinsky says although some people have been driving through those areas, they shouldn't.

Crews, she said, are "dealing with unstable structures. They're also working aloft, they're working with dangerous tools and equipment, and they also need to be mindful of keeping their site secure," she said.

With files from Sean Kavanagh

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.