From ALMS President Jack King:
A meeting was held with Manitoba Infrastructure on November 6.
Attending for the government was Scott Sinclair (Acting Deputy Minister), Ruth Eden (Acting Deputy Minister Water Management & Structures), Jeremy Angus (Acting Assistant Deputy Minister Emergency Management & Public Safety. The executive of ALMS represented by Jack King, Harry Frederick, Scott Forbes, Doug Ross, Jeannie Gurr and Alice Dent.
The chief item on the agenda was an update of the Lake Manitoba – Lake St. Martin Channel. There has been a partial start for road access – not requiring a licencing agreement from the environmental review.
The review process has been complicated by the addition of a Technical Advisory Committee by the Federal government. We are told that this group consists of two reps per thirty-five aboriginal communities deemed to be affected by the new channel.
Your ALMS reps questioned the number of communities identified and asked for clarification. Since the Federal government established the group the best that the Province can do is provide a list of the members and communities represented. To date we have not received this information. We have indicated that we will be requesting representation from the communities south of the channel.
While the Province maintains that no group holds veto power over the construction of the channel, they did acknowledge that the Technical Advisory group could add to the timeline for the environmental review. Each time they raise a question requiring research, the clock stops until the issue is answered. So, what should be a two-year review may be significantly longer.
There was an understanding that policy input will be sought involving ALMS regarding the operation of the new channel. Consensus was that the channel will provide lake management with higher water levels during the recreation season followed by lower the levels going into Fall and Winter in anticipation of the Spring melt.
We discussed the work completed on the Fairford Water Control System (FWCS) which has resulted in safer conditions when the concrete stops are removed or added to regulate flows.
The FWCS will be run this winter according to the guidelines established by the Province. Those regulations are appended to this post. We stressed the importance of the structure to mitigate against high lake levels. The FWCS allowed to operate in the winter of 2016 is believed to have spared flooding in the spring of 2017. We encouraged the structure to operate similarly this winter.
It would be fair to note that there was overall frustration with the update on the channel. What had been a project timeline of completion by 2021 has been increased by four years. There is a distinct possibility that the environmental review will be extended because of the creation of an Advisory group. Given that the capacity for adding water has significantly increased with enhancements at the Portage Diversion without any environmental assessment and that it will take 14 years from the flood event to offset these flows, it stands to reason that our communities feel marginalized and frustrated.
We appreciated the opportunity to meet with the Province and represent our stake holders. There is a growing mood of pessimism given delays and a light at the end of the tunnel growing dimmer.