Long-term flood protection sought in Manitoba’s Peguis First Nation
The worst flooding people in Peguis First Nation have ever seen is prompting calls for long-term protection from rising waters.
The Fisher River has spilled its banks, forcing more than 1,500 people from their homes in Manitoba’s largest First Nation community.
The impact has been drastic, with several hundred homes affected by the flooding.
Provincial officials said Thursday it is a one-in-100 year event and the worst in this part of Manitoba’s Interlake region since 1962.
But it’s not the first time the community of Peguis has flooded and its Chief, Glenn Hudson, said this year shows the First Nation needs new long-term infrastructure to help keep the community safe.
“We have been lobbying government over the past few years in terms of long-term flood protection,” Hudson said. “This is the fourth flood in the last 12 years that we’ve experienced and this one being the highest ever.”
Following the flood of 1997, communities in the southern part of the province in the Red River Valley got ring dikes and homes were elevated to protect against spring flooding.
Jay Doering, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Manitoba, said a study will need to be done to determine how the community could be best protected.
“The properties, by and large, are somewhat spread apart and the most practical way to deal with that would either be to raise these houses up on pads or to put individual ring dikes around them,” Doering said.
Doering also said there may be an opportunity to build a ring dike around the whole community. He said more expensive options would be building a dam upstream or a diversion channel.
“We need flood mitigation,” said James Favel, a member of Peguis First Nation and the president of the First Nation Community Response Corporation which has been helping fight the flood. “We need ring dikes around Peguis. That has to happen otherwise this is going to be an ongoing thing.”
Hudson said a diversion was recently priced out at a cost of around $90 million.
He noted the community was forced to relocate to its present-day location from the Selkirk area in 1907.
“Our First Nations people deserve better in terms of having to be put through this,” Hudson said, adding other communities in the province are now protected from flooding.
“Morris, they have a ring dike,” Hudson pointed out.
The Manitoba government said this year’s flooding in Peguis will prompt a post-flood review with First Nations leadership and the federal government. The province said it plans to work with the community and Ottawa to improve long-term flood protection.
Indigenous Services Canada said officials toured the First Nation Thursday and met with leaders.
The department said it’ll continue to work with the community and other partners to ensure critical supports are in place.