Rickford ensuring provincial flood resources available

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer
abradbury@fortfrances.com

While on the campaign trail, recently re-elected MPP for Kenora-Rainy River Greg Rickford says he saw the damage throughout the riding caused by high water and he is working with other members of provincial government to ensure all options are available to the region.

Rickford says that the unique timing of the provincial campaign enabled him to see much of the area.

“Because of the campaign I was moving around the region very frequently,” Rickford said. “I had the opportunity to watch and experience rising water levels from Rainy Lake, Rainy River, and of course, the downstream impacts on Lake of the Woods.”

While the government was in ‘care-taker mode’ during the election, Rickford’s cabinet posting as Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry enabled him to be of some assistance during the election period.

“I did have an opportunity to speak with senior officials at all relevant times,” Rickford said. “Especially when new water levels required specific actions by government. We tried to anticipate as much of it as we could. I think folks — especially in the Rainy River District — would have noted that the provincial government through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was quite active.”

Over the last few weeks, Ministry employees could be seen at sandbagging sites in Fort Frances.

Rickford says the morning after election night he was getting caught up on the water issues in the region.

“On June 3 I spent the better part of the day getting briefed on the status of water levels throughout the region,” he said. “As well as what that meant, obviously in particular for our dams and for damage. Then I spent the rest of the day after that ensuring that all hands were on deck and the provincial response was a whole government approach. I spoke with a couple of my cabinet colleagues and the secretary of cabinet to confirm that not only were we ensuring that all provincial resources were being put to the situations, but that we would work as hard at anticipating future challenges with respect to rising water levels.”

Rickford says he’ll be watching closely over the next few weeks and helping to deal with the impact of the flooding.

“My priority is the safety of all the residents in Kenora-Rainy River,” Rickford said. “As well as operations to mitigate the impact of [the flooding]. Assessments and boots on the ground is what I’m concerned with. I’m making my way around the region to continue to monitor, not just for myself, but to ensure that the technical people including our control boards are assessing the right information to try to deal with the impacts now and anticipate what the effects will be in the short term.”

Sandbagging volunteers were busy at the Shevlin Wood Yard over the weekend. Sandbagging has now paused at the yard due to a healthy stockpile. But it continues at the Watten Fire Hall and Couchiching First Nations. – Allan Bradbury photo