Winnipeg flood clean-up expected to cost millions: mayor

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz estimates the city's tab for fighting the 2009 flood will total at least $5 million.

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz estimates the city's tab for fighting the 2009 flood will total at least $5 million.

The numbers are still very preliminary, but officials estimate includes the expense of making sandbags, distributing them, and having city crews patrol the dikes around the clock will be around $4 million.

Katz expects the bill for cleaning up and removing the sandbags will be at least another $1 million.

Neither of those tabs includes the estimated cost of repairing roads, bridges and riverbanks. That cannot be calculated until after the water recedes, Katz said.

More than 200 low-lying properties in the city either flooded or were at serious risk of flooding as the Red River and its tributaries — the Assiniboine River and Seine River — became bloated with rain and spring runoff. High flows on local streams such as Sturgeon Creek and the La Salle River also contributed to the problem.

Fortunately, the levels of most tributaries and rivers in Manitoba are now on the decline, according to the provincial flood forecast. Only the Souris River continues to rise; it is expected to do so until the end of the month.

Across the province, 1,680 square kilometres of land is under water and 2,470 people have registered as evacuees with the Red Cross or Manitoba Association of Native Fire Fighters.

First Nations hit hard

More than half of the evacuees are from First Nations communities.

A few hundred of the 800 people who live in Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation in southern Manitoba remain in Winnipeg, while 230 residents of Fisher River First Nation north of Winnipeg were forced out of their homes. About 180 people from Fisher River have since returned and the remaining 50 were expected to go back on Wednesday as the floodwaters recede.

Hundreds of residents of Peguis First Nation, also north of Winnipeg, have no idea when they will be able to go home as nearly 80 per cent of the reserve land is submerged.

Fisher River Chief David Crate is demanding a commitment from government to find and fund solutions to the problem, which is that much of the First Nations live in flood-prone area.

"We are very restricted in where we can build our homes in the community just because the land is really unusable, a lot of swamp," he said. "The key factor is government and their commitment to funding the long-term solutions for both Fisher River and Peguis."

 In 1908, Peguis First Nation was forcibly moved by the federal government from its original location near the town of Selkirk, onto the present flood plain.

Peguis Chief Glen Hudson is also worried about the cost his community is facing as a result of the flood. The evacuation and dike construction alone has already cost $3 million, he said.

Disaster funding assistance

The federal and provincial governments have committed to covering up to 90 per cent of costs for the flooding, for municipalities and individuals.

For the latter, the maximum compensation is $200,000, which is double the amount originally provided under the disaster assistance program.

For more information on how to apply for disaster financial assistance, call 945-4772 or 1-888-267-8298 or go to the government of Manitoba website and follow the links to flood information and disaster financial assistance.