Every morning my friend and I walk the nasty gravel road that was left behind our homes at Delta Beach after the flood of 2011. Today, we resolve to enjoy the beautiful day, despite helicopters circling above, trucks dropping massive loads of sandbags, and excavators building up dikes along the Assiniboine Diversion which threatens to flood us – again.
At the sound of vehicles, we turn to see three SUV’s approaching. The cars are shiny and driving at the posted speed, which make them unusual out here.
“D’you think they’re politicians checking out what they’re doing to us?” I joke. These guys don’t look as if they’d run us down so we wave as they go by.
“Wasn’t that Selinger?” my friend asks.
“Nah, too skinny and old.”
“No, really,” she counters, “that was him.”
I try to superimpose the face in the car onto pictures I’d seen. Yup. She’s right.
We cross the road to get a better look on their return. It won’t take them long. There’s not much to see: people worked hard to fix the damage of 2011, and other than masses of dead trees, things are looking good.
On his return, I manage a glare. But I wish I had the nerve to make him stop. “Why?” I’d like to have asked. “How many times will you force us to save people who choose to build homes in a flood plain?”
Last time, the government made a perfect storm of bad decisions which left them no choice but to use Lake Manitoba as their ‘floodway’. I understood their decision then, even if I also hated it.
Now they’ve had three years to build a diversion from Lake Manitoba into Lake Winnipeg – the third step of the government plan developed and aborted over 50 years ago. They stopped at step two: the Portage Diversion which today flows far above capacity – again.
Lake Manitoba hasn’t had a natural flood since 1955. Now artificially elevated water levels threaten residents for the second time in less than 5 years, yet just yesterday Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced, “We will not let nature run its course.”
Newsflash Mr. Premier: residents around Lake Manitoba would be thrilled to let nature run its course – instead of running maximum water flows into a lake overfull from the last round of bad decisions. I’d like to have added, “And tell your minister to stop pretending that the Lake St. Martin channel is anything other than a ruse to placate people with no knowledge of the true situation.”
No, I’m not delusional. Talking to the Premier wouldn’t suddenly have inspired him to tell people that long after river levels crest and fall, Lake Manitoba waters will rise for months, making its shores susceptible to the same devastation we experienced in 2011.
So as my friend and I head across the nasty gravel tomorrow, we’ll try to be grateful if our feet are still dry, even as we pray for gentle winds to last until this crisis too has passed.