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RM of Morris seeks cleanup assistance

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 07/23/2018 9:15 AM

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The RM of Morris hopes a provincial disaster assistance fund will help it recoup nearly $70,000 in cleanup expenses after a dry, windy spring swept agricultural soil into municipal drainage ditches.

Last month, council learned an urgent, two-week cleanup of 40 kilometres of ditching cost the municipality $68,540. After an evaluation by public works staff, a private company was hired to pile the soil on the edge of farmers’ fields, said Reeve Ralph Groening.

"We’ve really put a lot of focus into maintaining our drainage infrastructure because that is essential to farmers to continue their livelihood."

The municipality is currently awaiting a response to its application under the Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) program.

To receive DFA funds, disaster events must meet criteria outlined in the Emergency Measures Act.

Groening guessed the province will be more willing to release funds if it views drift soil as an issue affecting several municipalities.

Calling drift soil "a cause for concern over the past 10 years," he said farmers and the municipality must address it through increased cooperation in future years.

"The agronomic realities of farming today, with low organic matter in crops, is really the largest factor," he said.

Unlike cereal crops such as wheat and barley, oilseed crops like soybeans and canola leave behind relatively little organic matter, while heavy tilling on windy days is also a factor, Groening explained.

Through its newsletter, the municipality will ask farmers to assess tilling practices and consider shelterbelt plantings, Groening said.

The federal government discontinued its century-old Prairie Shelterbelt Program in 2013. While there is no provincial equivalent, a Manitoba Agriculture spokesperson said its Ag Action program has a shelterbelt component for watershed conservation districts.

While Groening allowed climate change may also be affecting soil conditions, he said drafting a bylaw or imposing a levy to recover cleanup costs would be a "last resort."

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