Today’s New York Times front page features an article about the activities being undertaken by the federal, state, and municipal governments as a result of what they’ve been taught by Hurricane Sandy and how they are working to prevent a future disaster.
More importantly, for us in Manitoba, its an example that we should actively consider following. Consider the lessons we can learn from them:
1) While they`re worried about New York City, they’re just as worried about Mantoloking, New Jersey – a community of 296 people, roughly the same as a Delta Beach or Twin Beaches. They`re worried about a soybean farmer on the Delmarva Peninsula. They understand it’s not just about protecting “The Big Apple”, but also about protecting small communities and farms – everyone.
Lesson: There is no theme of “too bad you live in a small community near water”. Too often in Manitoba we hear themes of “too close to the Lake” or “too bad you choose to live near water”. Flooding is everyone’s problem – and protecting a farm near Lake Manitoba or a home on the Lake is just as important as protecting homes along the river in Headingley. Lets not turn neighbour against neighbour, and instead focus on solving the problem.
2) They`re engaging help from all around the world – to make sure they get the best advice possible. They’re using experts from as far away as Denmark, who understand how to fight big waves and big storms.
Lesson: Our problems on Lake Manitoba are very much beyond the expertise our government has built around river flooding. We have serious coastal erosion and wave damage issues brought by years of high water management policy. The help and advice from people who’ve dealt with the impact of high water on large inland oceans would be invaluable. We do have great and smart people in Manitoba – all the more reason for us to acknowledge the limits of our experience. Why not leverage the experience of others? If New York is willing to do so, why not us? We need to engage experience from top experts on wave mitigation, water management, and coastal erosion – from around the world. Leveraging their experience will save us billions of dollars and avoid learning from the “school of hard knocks” in the future.
3) They aren’t focusing on one mega solution – They are fighting on many fronts – Small and large measures are being used – some which can make a difference now.
Lesson: While a drainage channel is needed, and should have been built years ago, what about a multi-prong strategy of upper and lower Assiniboine capacity building, better lake management, and permanent wave mitigation? What about shoreline restoration?
4) They aren`t blaming mother nature or people for choosing to live and farm near the water. They`re accepting the new reality and actively building to protect everyone.
Lesson:Much time and energy has been spent in Manitoba trying to link the Flood of 2011 to Mother Nature. Further energy has been spent blaming people for living close to water(which they have done since Manitoba was settled, as water is, and always has been, important to life). Its high time we follow the example of the Hurricane Sandy governments and accept that regardless of cause, high water, high winds and flooding are now a reality. Lets focus on the present, not the past.
5) In the United States, all three levels of government are owning this as their problem – Federal, State and City. They even have a Presidential Task force set-up.
Lesson: As flooding in Manitoba is a national problem, much of it a result of our neighbours, a multi-jurisdictional strategy could really help. Our Federal government has substantially more people and monetary resources, they have the ability to deal substantially with the inter-provincial and international sources of much of our flood waters. Sure we may have a constitution that says it’s a provincial issue – but its pretty obvious our forefathers didn’t envision the inter-jurisdictional complexities and costs of water management. Why not lead the charge for helping solve some of these problems? Why is Manitoba left to largely funding and try to solve a problem mostly a result of water from two other provinces and two other states? We live at the “end of the pipe” of water that is managed(or not managed) by others…and yet we pay the price of dealing with the flood water and building protection. Its not right or fair. Only our Federal government has the effective ability to deal with international and inter-provincial issues of this magnitude. So why not lead the charge for solving the problem?
Conclusion: In Manitoba we have a century old tradition of learning from others and using this knowledge to make Manitoba a great place to live. Lets learn from our southern neighbours and make Manitoba safe from floods for ourselves and our children. Lets start now.
– Scott Greenlay
To read the article from the New York Times, click here.