Talking Trash with Alex Paterson: Lake Winnipeg and the Federal numbers after press time

After press time I received further correspondence with the Federal Government on the issue of cleaning up Lake Winnipeg and wetlands reconstruction.
Mark Johnson Spokesperson for Environment Canada stated:

“Financial support for stewardship action in Phase I was delivered through the Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund (LWBSF). The LWBSF provided $2.46 million in support of community driven stewardship projects that addressed one or more of the following program priorities:
1. rehabilitating priority aquatic ecosystems that support nutrient reduction and sequestration;
2. reducing nutrient inputs from point sources;
3. controlling non-point sources of nutrients; and,
4. enhancing research and monitoring capacity to assist in decision-making. The LWBSF targeted a federal contribution of one-third, and a one-third provincial contribution, but could provide up to two-thirds of total project costs. Emphasis was placed on leveraging other funding sources and collaborative partnerships. For every dollar contributed under the LWBSF, $2.25 in partner contributions was generated. LWBSF salary and overhead costs were $909,424 over four years.”

This essentially means only 7 million dollars overall went to funding projects, and roughly 1 million of that was used in salary and overhead between the years of 2008-2012 for the LWBSF specifically.  Remember in my article the Lake Winnipeg Foundation thinks investing 50 million dollars over 5-10 years directly to wetland reconstruction and research is necessary. Of the 7 million dollars allocated, Johnson states:

“From 2008-2012, the LWBSF provided $709,339 (29% of total LWBSF funding) to 10 projects (25% of total number of projects funded) that either worked directly on wetland restoration / preservation or indirectly through research and other activities in support of wetland protection / restoration. Funding recipients reported 549 hectares of wetlands were protected / restored as a direct result of LWBSF funding.”

So that means if the other partners contributed equally, roughly 2.5 million dollars went to wetland restoration over phase 1. This amounts to 5% of what the Lake Winnipeg Foundation and IISD considered to be a reasonable amount to actually tackle the scale of the problem.

It is really important to consider the fact that even the Government of Manitoba acknowledges and promotes wetlands as a way of trapping nutrients and water from draining into the watershed and enhancing the potential for flooding. Wetland restoration needs to be considered a form of preventative flood mitigation. Public Safety Canada Spokesperson Jean Paul Duval released these figures of money spent on flood relief through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA):

2002/2003       $2,747,649
2003/2004       $- 
2004/2005       $7,292,493
2005/2006       $37,694,417
2006/2007       $7,045,162
2007/2008       $23,552,493
2008/2009       $565,937
2009/2010       $- 
2010/2011       $40,286,253
2011/2012       $50,000,000
2012/2013       $58,941,680
Total           $228,126,084

He explained, “Apart from a few other disaster claims such as the occasional wind storm, the Manitoba figures represent floods throughout the province and not just of the Red River Valley.”

So the Federal Government has paid out at least 120 million dollars on flood relief in the last 3 years for floods between the years 2009-2012. On top of that money, 332.5 million dollars was dedicated to expanding the Red River Floodway, according to the Floodway Authority’s 2010 annual report. Since 2003 there has been around 500 million spent on floods, but essentially nothing on projects actually preventing water from getting into the watersheds to cause a flood in the first place.  Why is the Federal Government spending so much money treating crisis and not preventing it? Whether it is floods or algal blooms the Government is treating the ass end of the problem.

Instead the Federal Government should be investing in preventative measures. A portion of my article that was cut in the editorial room was about how Richard Grossman suggested we investigate developing impoundment projects like the North Ottawa Project. This project consists of dykes and basins that impede water drainage and allow more control of the rate of runoff. In many of these basins and dykes cattails are used to remove nutrients. Two problems in one!  Instead the Federal Government has dedicated 17.7 million dollars over 4 years. That is too little too late, too stupid.