Manitoba is proposing its first comprehensive Surface Water Management Strategy and multi-year surface water management investments to protect Lake Winnipeg and mitigate flood and drought damage, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh and Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton announced.
“Manitoba faces three water woes: excessive nutrient loading of waterways that is harming Lake Winnipeg, damage from flooding and the risk of drought,” said Minister Mackintosh. “All three can be mitigated with a new, sustainable approach to managing drainage and investing in flood control infrastructure.”
About 75 per cent of original wetlands in Manitoba have been drained since industrial development began on the prairies, much of that in areas such as the Red River basin, impairing the natural ability of waterways to retain, release and refresh water over time, Minister Mackintosh said, adding this strategy seeks to end further loss of the benefits that wetlands provide and includes a plan to overhaul drainage licensing that would streamline approvals for routine drainage while protecting seasonal wetlands.
Key stakeholders have developed a risk-based approach to drainage licensing which moves the focus of regulation from oversight of routine drainage and water retention to those projects with potentially serious environmental impacts. Routine drainage and water retention works would have clear minimum standards, reduced wait times and associated costs, and earlier start times on the land, the minister said.
Seasonal and permanent wetland benefits would be protected, and breaches would be caught through spot audits and a crackdown on illegal projects, he said, adding violators would face significantly increased fines.
“Manitoba’s proposed regulatory process for drainage and water retention will improve wetland protection and help to mitigate the effects of climate change, flooding and nutrient loading on our lakes,” said Dr. Scott Stephens, director of regional operations – prairies, Ducks Unlimited Canada. “The Manitoba government’s commitment to a no-net loss of wetland benefits approach should be commended as it demonstrates their resolve to mitigate environmental problems that are costing Manitoban’s significantly.”
Press Release, June 13, 2014