Tuesday, May 31, 2011

There's nothing more relaxing than...

... going to sleep to the sound of waves, unless of course you're a cottage owner on Lake Manitoba. Then you're not sleeping well, if at all.
It's tough to bite your tongue when reading the comments left by the uninformed on the newspaper web sites. "If you build near a lake, you have to expect water" and the like. Idiots. I guess none of them "get" the fact that Winnipeg is built near water, at the confluence of three rivers, (Red, Assiniboine, Seine) as well as numerous other smaller tributaries, almost all of which have been changed dramatically over the past thirty plus years. Winnipeg was saved from inundation by the Portage Diversion. Most Winnipegger's never really think about the "little river", but there is no flood way to protect Winnipeg from that one. If it goes up and over it's banks... too bad for everyone nearby. So what to do? Dump all that water into lake Manitoba.

You may have read about our deck that became a dock. Last weekend we realized that it became a floating swim platform, so we spend the day getting it back to shore and winching a 14' x 16' deck up onto shore. Was it enough?

The wind today has me feeling very apprehensive. We had to take down the small sandbag dikes we had put up to "slow" the waves in order to relocate the deck from the water onto shore, and were too tired to rebuild it, leaving that for this weekend. This evening I read that the waves were crashing 15' up shore and wiping out all sorts of beach in a few hours. I am already pretty tired of going there every weekend to do "damage control"... frankly, I don't really want to go to the cottage anymore. It's depressing. you can work your tail off, and you really feel that it's futile, because there isn't really much the average weekender can do. If the lake, given it's current level, wants to mow down all the trees, tear up your sea wall, destroy your deck, tip your change house over before dragging it out to sink it, and wash all the sand out from under your fire pit... there's nothing you can do about it.

We walk a fine line of wanting to "blame" someone for the lack of notice, as well as the fact that it's happening at all. Insofar as the notice goes, aside from the ineptitude of the officials involved, I don't know how much I would have done differently, but the lake levels... that's another thing. I'm not sure what to do with the anger I feel at times over the mismanagment of the lake levels, and the denials that persisted into mid May regarding the "natural lake levels" and the fact that the Portage Diversion didn't cause the increased levels.

Were they out and out lying, or are they just plain stupid?

Since there are departments for this, and ultimately there are Ministers responsible for departments, could I be the first one to call for Christine Melnick's head?

I want to head out there to see for myself just how bad it all is, but alas, I may only be able to take Friday off early, so I can go work like a fool all weekend again... apparently for minimum wage.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Province blinks

Today we're told there will be compensation for the victims of the current flood conditions, specifically in two areas. The folks affected (or not) by the necessary cut into the dike at the Hoop and Holler will be reimbursed 100%, and the Lake Manitoba folks will get 90%.
The "or not" comment is as a result of the big hype that was fore casted preceding the cut, and the calculated water that would flow through the cut. It never really happened. The people still prepared, sand bagged, took time off work, ruined their lawns, moved their decks...all in order to prepare for something that they were told was going to happen, but didn't. The boy who cried wolf? Put his finger in the dike? Whatever... It's clear that the coming deluge of water never materialized, and we are again asking, "Why?"

I don't always have time to read every story in the local paper, but I found this nugget looking for info.
Clearly I'm not the only guy out here asking how they could be off the mark this badly.

Another little gem, calling a spade a... wait a sec... I don't want to be accused of a slur... telling it like it is was this gem. http://www.mywestman.ca/content/view/3157/68/  These folks didn't drink the kool-aid either, and asked some tough questions. The result?

Compensation. Sure, no one has actually said, "Ya, our employees screwed up big, and we're liable", but they may as well have. Cottagers will also be included, a nice surprise, likely as a result of people starting to use the words "class action" around the areas that are 814' ASL around the lake.

Now there are a lot of cottage owners who will receive some help, and I'm never really sure about who decides what and how much. Cottages that were built below the designated elevations apparently will still be receiving compensation. As to why, I'm not sure. I've already seen one completely surrounded, and water lapping at the floor. My initial feeling is pity, but then I wonder... "He built that a few years ago, and no where near as high as everyone else, and way too close to the shore. At what point do we become responsible for our own safety?"
Fall, 2010

How do we keep track of sand bagging time. "Non-arms length help will be calculated at minimum wage". My son worked pretty hard for minimum wage... but then he didn't really expect to get paid, but really, the cleanup after the fact will be at minimum wage? So I should hire someone to drag all the debris off the beach (if we see it again before next summer)? I suppose I understand the rationale, and I can't see me making any claims (as of yet) simply because I don't think it's right, but restoring the yard to make up for the tracks pounded through the soaked mud... I might just get someone in with a machine to do that. And the guy whose cottage is flooded, I did lend him some supplies to help him raise his cabin, (which are floating out there somewhere), I may claim those too, but there isn't a whole lot of cash that can cover the lost "time" for us. The summer will suck, as we'll be worried every time the wind blows, we can't enjoy the place as we've become accustomed to, and maybe a "cottage tax relief" effort should be started. Far better than having me submit receipts for soil, equipment, replacing railway ties, and logging sandbagging hours, how about we just not pay the property taxes on our cabin this year?
Spring, 2011
Rip rap added, slightly different angle to prevent the runners
from getting soaked
And for those of you thinking, "You shouldn't get anything for a cottage, it's a luxury", I wonder how you'd be with MPI telling you, "You don't need a second car, so we're not paying you for it."

I may have wandered off here a bit, but I still think that we can take today's announcement as admission of a complete failure to forecast the flooding along Lake Manitoba, and very poor water stewardship over the winter. Let's hope people remember come October. It's time to sweep out the house.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Flood Update, Lake Manitoba

So just in case any one was wondering... the water went up. Apparently the lake is at 815. something over sea level, and that actually means something now that there are elevation references on the dikes that were built. Before last week, we as owners of properties had no datum, bench mark, elevation, landmark, whatever you want to call it, to accurately determine the level of danger our property might be in.
Instead of being able to determine these things for ourselves, I suppose we were just to "trust" the people in charge of such things.
Bad idea.
On a positive note, I did meet the Reeve of the RM, his EMO guy, and a councillor who doubles as the Natural Resource Officer in the area. Two of these guys appeared to be about retirement age, (not that that's an issue... just keep reading), and one came over to the property to ask for help. My son and I obliged, not really knowing who or what was being asked of us. We headed over to the dike and assisted in setting a rather large water pump into the "low" side of the water and helped place the discharge pipe over the dike to the "high side" where the water was being discharged into the lake.
After we finished our respective grunting and becoming completely covered in "swamp muck", the other gentlemen introduced themselves. It seems that in an RM, being Reeve means you get a first hand look at how things are going... by being there and doing them.
All agreed that the Water Stewardship clams regarding the lake levels are absolute hog wash.

My son and I spent some time riding our antique "trikes" through the mud/water, actually floating them in a few areas where roads typically exist, and spent the better part of a day building a sandbag "wall" to take some of the power out of the waves threatening to destroy our retaining wall typically 25' away from the water. we weighted down a "deck" that is now a "dock" with a few 50 gallon drums we filled with water, and I donned my wet suit to get into the lake to replace the concrete blocks that were supporting the new "dock", (formerly just a deck).

All in all... likely a sign of things to come for the summer.

The surrounding fields are flooded, since they are almost 3' below the lake level, and the ditches are full to the shoulder of the gravel roads. If it rains, the water has no where to go, flooding the yard, making bringing in sandbags on a trike and trailer an exercise in grass destruction.


October can't come soon enough. It's time to sweep out the Legislature, Water Stewardship, and the Flood Forecasting offices.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Water Water everywhere... but few answers to many questions

I've let this "stew" for a few days... or percolate... or ferment... or... never mind

We have a place on a lake. It's a big lake, the third largest body of water in Manitoba actually, and the 33rd largest freshwater lake in the world. The water is high. VERY high, and there seems to be a lot of bovine scat being spread around by our unelected premier and his underlings.

The reason I let this post sit for a while was simply because I'm impacted, and the "hard" questions can become viewed as personal attacks. They're not, but I think we need to review some positions in the departments involved. Let's review.

The big lake doesn't drain naturally anymore... nor does it fill naturally. The levels are manipulated by decisions made to benefit Hydro by Manitoba Water Stewardship, and an "independent" body named Lake Manitoba Stewardship Board. The level is controlled at Fairford, where a dam was  built in the '30's along  a canal that was built at the turn of the century due to extreme flooding. A new dam was built in the early '60's to replace the old one. The highest the lake had ever been before is 816.25' above sea level before my life time... and we're about to revisit that number.

Lakes and water sheds are a tough thing to predict. There are a lot of variables, none of which I have any expertise in... but then... that's not MY job is it? The lake was fed by a few rivers and Lake Winnipegosis, but then we started diverting water from the Assiniboine River via the Portage Diversion into the lake. We finished that little bit of water manipulation in the '70's.

Now let me explain that I'm not opposed to manipulating water levels, but I also believe that someone has to be called on the carpet when they screw up this badly... and they have screwed up... badly. Clearly someone failed miserably in their ability to predict how much water due to winter snow and existing soil saturation was going to flow through the Assiniboine River and the Diversion. Had someone been doing their job, I wouldn't have noticed the lake level RISING over the winter. Clearly, they were continuing to control the outflows, and decided to keep water IN the lake, ostensibly to be a reservoir for the further downstream hydro electric dams, since the lake feeds into the Nelson River, via Lake Winnipeg.

Suddenly one day, a person with authority in these matters realized they screwed up, but there was probably as much P/R damage control as there is flood protection damage control.

We see that almost everything done this spring is knee jerk. There was little planning, and no predictions of record lake levels to allow the municipalities surrounding the south basin of the lake to plan anything. Lemme ask you... has it rained much? This is still winter run off... a wet cycle to be sure, but this isn't a record snow fall winter followed by a record rainfall spring. This wasn't even a record rainfall fall followed by a record snowfall winter. This is BAD PLANNING pure and simple.

The planning includes having kept the lake too high all winter to properly allow for the flow of water the lake was expected to receive, simply, because there wasn't anyone in the Provincial Department who even bothered to look at that river. We had Selinger announce ice breaking on the Red, sand bag machines... a lot of photo ops, but little along the way of actual preparation to make room in the lake for the designed 25,000 cubic feet of water per second, and especially not the "above capacity" flows we have today (32,900 c.ft/sec) Now figure the maximum outflows at Fairford being 18,000 c.ft/sec and you start to realize that if you put in more than you can dump out.... well try this experiment.

If you're name is Philip Mutulu, Christine Melnick, or Steve Topping, go home and wrap electrical tape around the shiny silver "thingy" at the top level of your bathtub, and start adding water with the drain plug closed. When the water gets to the level of the shiny emergency drain we in the biz call the "waste and overflow", let your plug slide over a bit, but just enough so you can hear the water leave... don't take the plug off, and don't turn the water off... and wait... and wait... and watch the water spill over the top... and soak the floor... and ruin the drywall in the room below... and NO, you can't turn the water off! No you can't open the drain plug! You can't, because you are now just like all the poor schleps with investments of money, time and sheer effort along the lake.

You've failed miserably Philip. If you were a meteorologist, and are now a flood forecaster (or a hydrologist), you clearly failed to see this coming. Your first year on the job should be your last IMHO... we need a guy who knows there are two major rivers in this province. Christine? You listening? You've failed through your department too. Sure, we thought it was cute to see you in your nice parka on the Red talking about the amphibex.  Steve Topping... I think you're the guy who kept the level at the height it was over the winter aren't you? If it were my call, you'd be looking for a new control valve to turn, and my glowing reference wouldn't let you turn a valve at a sewage plant, let alone manage a lake level.

Increasingly, we're seeing total ineptitude displayed in our civil servants, and while I understand that freakish weather patterns can't be predicted, this disaster is man made through poor planning, poor forecasting, and very very bad judgment.

A quick visit to the daily flood report http://www.gov.mb.ca/waterstewardship/floodinfo/forecast_centre/daily_reports/2011/en/flood_report_may_17_2011.pdf
Shows the ongoing, "it's not our fault" reporting. "In early April and before the flood, water levels in Lake Manitoba were approximately 2 ft lower than what would have occurred naturally. " I beg to differ. The water was clearly rising ALL WINTER, visible through my weekly snowmobile rides. I commented a number of times, "I've never seen the ice level this high" to people when talking about the lake. It's the kind of thing a guy like me can't "prove" empirically. Some engineer starts talking about this, that, and the udder ting and his word clearly must be relied upon.


Steve Ashton? Keep talking, just to give me more reasons not to believe anything you or the "experts" say from now on. http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/prairies/manitoba-amasses-real-troops-and-an-army-of-retired-engineers-to-deal-with-flood/article2018120/?service=mobile 

Almost every new report I read from March is the same... and there is NEVER a mention of flooding on Lake Manitoba. http://www.winnipegsun.com/news/manitoba/2011/03/25/17761276.html We read about the Red, snow in the south, high water on the Assiniboine...

So in closing, the people responsible for controlling the in and outflows of the lake had no idea what they were doing, and that makes them responsible. Had we never controlled the in/out flows, we could blame it on nature, and cycles... but you can't convince us that the lake would be HIGHER without you adding all that water from Portage just because your "daily flood report" says so. Most of us simply don't believe you.

Manitoba Water Stewardship has calculated Lake Manitoba water levels under natural conditions (without the Portage Diversion inflows, the Fairford Dam or the expansion of the Fairford River channel which increased outflow capacity to Lake St. Martin). These flood control works are intended to operate so that water levels on Lake Manitoba do not exceed those that would be experienced under natural conditions. It is estimated that under natural conditions, Lake Manitoba water levels would be approximately 1.1 ft higher today.


Friday, May 6, 2011

"We will no longer accept comments on this story as submissions have been consistently unacceptable"

This seems to be a consistent line on the FreeP website in the "comments" area, typically revolving around a number of first nations stories.
I get that there are racists out there... really, I do. I also get that we cannot allow them "free speech", because it does incite others to feel the same way, and fuels that racism. As a society, we cannot allow those things to be said "freely", but...
Are we to believe that these things aren't being said in coffee shops, around supper tables, and any other place people are freely permitted to associate and have discussions? If these things that are unacceptable in public are held to privately, are we simply driving them underground? Is sheltering the rest of the reading public from comments the majority finds are over the top a good thing?
Consider our good buddy Ernst Zundel, (if you're too young, try this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Z%C3%BCndel ) who for years was permitted to spew his anti Semitic views and Holocaust denial. He was given air time by virtue of being reported on, his jail sentences and trials were published... wouldn't this have raised the ire, and support, and reinforced a neo-Nazi to feel support for the views and persecution by the "Zionist establishment" blah blah blah...
You get the idea. If we can't comment publicly, should it be reported on at all? If the STORY is known to provoke "hatred", or views that are "unacceptable", should we even hear about it?
The FreeP has every right to moderate and exclude the comments submitted... and closing comments means there are a lot of them, and the moderators are overwhelmed, but even THAT will keep the "over the top" thoughts going. "Next time I'll get my comment in", and the thoughts continue to percolate until there is an outlet.
I suppose that it's simplistic to think the FreeP shouldn't report on a sentence passed on a woman who killed another on a reserve while on a home made alcohol fueled rage when she found her husband with another woman naked on a couch. ( http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Woman-sentenced-to-22-more-months-in-jail-for-beating--121280489.html ) I can also imagine the comments such a story provoked. Some could have been about the pathetic sentence she was given, possibly a result of our countries need to treat some citizens different when crimes are committed than others. Some may have been angered by the two for one time credits we thought were supposed to come to an end. (Bill C-25... where are you?) Some could have been akin to "let them kill one another off", or along those lines... we'll never really know.
How do we stem this? What is the answer?
It all depends on where you stand, your up bringing, possibly your ancestry... but what is clear, is that the methodology used by the tall foreheads in the big building at the end of Memorial Boulevard, or on "the hill" in Ottawa over the past decade has had almost no tangible positive results, and the divide would appear to be growing... and THIS is problematic for all of us.
Great wisdom and leadership is required to bridge the growing chasm, and I don't see too much of that. Not only would the person, people, party, whatever need to be resilient to the attacks of racism, court challenges, and general hatred, they have to endure that from both sides if there is to be any fairness... and I haven't seen a politician that fits the "great wisdom and leadership" qualifications in my lifetime, and fewer with the back bone to do much about it.
Maybe we'd need an autocratic leader, able to impose their will of equality and fairness upon a people, but dictators don't typically have that sort of idea... dictators don't usually bring peace.
The title of this post points to a much larger problem. One that won't go away anytime soon, and one that we in Winnipeg, and in Manitoba NEED to come to grips with, because if we could solve the issues, and work together to build a great place to live for all of us, there would be no end to our prosperity. To continue to allow the status quo, to keep shoveling money at the problem, and to hope it will all just go away is a recipe for long term disaster.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Quick election thoughts

I'm generally pleased that we have a majority party in power, and look forward to the MP's getting on with the job at hand. I'm also glad that we had a slightly better voter turn out than the last go-around.

While I must say that I'm pleased with the solid thumping the Bloc took, (as well as the loss of  Duceppe's own seat), I wish we could somehow take away the pension those guys will now get.

Mr. Ignatieff was VERY gracious in light of the events that took place tonight. Perhaps if we'd have seen more of that side of him... I almost felt sorry for the humiliation he's endured, and while I don't think the campaign was "dirty" , (since much of the smearing were his own words), I do think he wanted to serve the country. To even loose his own seat. I don't think the campaign was run well.  I love the pundits asking if this is the end of the Liberals. Do none of them remember the post Mulroney years where a motorcycle and a side car were the official party vehicle for the Conservatives? I like the idea of clearing out the dead wood... this may be just what the Liberal party needs. All in all, the "scary Reform-Alliance" didn't hold water anymore. Leadership convention... Bob Rae!!! Speaking of gracious...

Anita Neville was anything but. The folks in her area felt she had passed her best before date. As a formers constituent, I think change there (of any sort) is good. Good luck Bateman.

Lamoureux over Blaikie... good. I'm glad a relatively new MP who didn't really have a chance to prove himself was narrowly elected instead of a "name" brand NDP.

Malloway, rebuffing claims of his seat being in peril by talking about all the old guys who support him, (Blakie, Schryer, Broadbent) needed to get into a time when he could drop a name that's done something RECENTLY. Dropping yesterdays names doesn't mean much, and neither does double signing yards. Good luck Toet.

Bruniooge over Duguid. Could we please STOP sending Duguid into different ridings and keep recycling this guy? He could be the poster child of the party "hack". Career politicians are not "good" for anyone.

Elizabeth May. I'll still make fun of her, and she's not an official party, able to car pool to work with the Bloc, BUT now I think she'll have earned a seat at the next debate... in 4 years. I hope not to have to listen to her go on and on (and on and on) too much before then... but we will. (She lost popular vote btw, so I'm still not sure they should be taken too seriously)

The NDP in Quebec. Now we watch Jack (Jacques) walk his tightrope. Sorry, but here I'm gonna say that the NDP was a protest vote. How else do you explain the election of a candidate who went to Vegas during the campaign? While I do think that electing bakers and bricklayers (instead of lawyers) is a good thing, he'll need to stack his "shadow caucus" heavily with Francophone and inexperienced members. I don't know that a lot of the candidates were "vetted" too stringently, as the NDP was likely just happy to get people to go through the motions of running a campaign. The NDP needs to start to groom a new leader, and set them in place in the next two years, as Jack will be retirement age by the next election, and frankly, I don't know that voters embrace older candidates.

Jacks speech was (as expected) full of the usual "I'll make a promise I know I can't deliver" stuff, like improving health care. That's a Provincial responsibility Jack, and the Conservatives simply want some accountability from the provinces. I really liked "Lifting every senior out of poverty".  Nice. Please refer to my "NDP Aunt"analogy a few posts ago. I can't say that Jack kept his crowd as polite as Gilles did. The crowd booed loudly when Jack congratulated Harper. The NDP has never been known for being "classy".

I don't think much of comparing the recent Tory "win" to Diefenbaker proportions, mostly because... I don't care about Diefenbaker era politics too much. I do think that Harper has been generally prudent and responsible in the role of PM, and that's why he was re elected, and given a majority. The "Reform Alliance" fears were not only forgotten, they were finally no longer believed by many.

It's hard to paint Harper as evil. Boring maybe. A man with uninspiring hair, yes. A control freak, sure, (I am too, it's how things get done around me, unless I KNOW you can be trusted to do a good job and not embarrass me), but evil is a tougher sell. He's always been gracious in receiving a mandate, happy to serve, respectful of the electorate, and respectful of his opponents.
I remember his last speech also stated that he would govern for all Canadians, even those who didn't vote for them. Sure, they can be empty words, or they can reinforce a willingness to be inclusive.
Work starts tomorrow (he says), which is good... we didn't need this "break", and neither did the Liberals. (The NDP did well though). Promises to increase health care funding go well beyond the empty words of Jack, because they mean something.
Graciousness towards Layton and the NDP, Ignatieff and the Liberals, and even Duceppe as worthy opponents, and reiteration of his respect for them, regardless of disagreeing.
His speech was perhaps reaching out... wanting to encourage the others to join together to work for a better Canada.

If we are to believe the people who don't like him, we'll soon see an autocratic, arrogant leader, who will soon impose his own moral values and beliefs on our nation, reducing the rights of women, and executing criminals after passing a law to reintroduce capital punishment. Doubt it.

If that happens, I'll be the first guy to take away my support, but for now, let him get on with the work at hand.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NDP Cap and Trade

So what is this? We had Stephan Dion talking Carbon Tax, as does Elizabeth May, both ideas soundly rejected by the electorate.
Canada STILL feels the pains of Trudeau's National Energy Program, an ill conceived idea that pitted east and west against one another. We still pay the "double tax" on that resource if I'm not mistaken.
So back to "What is this?"
It's fairly simple. A company is told how much emissions it's allowed to produce. Your rate is "capped" there. If you produce more, you need to buy a "permit". That "permit" will cost money. The nice thing is, you can buy these "permits" or "trade" them.
Ya... like you can buy and sell stocks, you can buy and sell "permits". There is a "Carbon market"... like a fish market, only bigger... and indoors... and sorta "virtual".
Lemme' spin one for you.
I decide I like Jack, (who doesn't know jack), and I embrace his folly. I ask myself, "Self. As a committed capitalist who lost his mind and voted NDP, how can I make money off this hair brained idea?"
I can trade "carbon permits"! A whole new industry can develop. I'm going to go to the coffee shops in the farming communities and pay farmers to use a "no till" policy on their soy bean crops, reducing NOX emissions by about 57%. I can now sell that "saved" 57% to a company burning almost anything in a manufacturing process where combustion takes place so they can exceed their "cap". Seems easy enough... I'll pay less to the farmers than I'll sell to the utility company (or whoever), and the world's eco system will remain in balance!
This is pure folly, and don't think this won't affect YOU. Do you heat your home? Wander downstairs to look at your furnace. The Natural Gas will cost MORE because there will be a "tax" on fuels since all fuels are used for combustion. You ask, "What about Gasoline? Diesel?"  Why are you asking? Are they fuels? Clearly you have your answer... yes, they'll cost more. There are carbon emissions created when these things are refined, and the extra costs is about $2/gal or .50 per liter. If you doubt all this, look up the price of fuel in EU countries, and ask yourself, "Does the EU have a "cap and trade" policy, and is that why they pay so much?
"OK", you say, "But we have electricity in Manitoba, and it's from renewable sources, so we're good."
Do you REALLY believe there will be a "free ride"? Do we need to revisit the National Energy Policy you couldn't figure out why I mentioned earlier, because it had little context?
No right (as in correct, not right as in wing) thinking person will believe that electricity generated by coal will suddenly spike in price to three times it's current price while Hydo electricity gets a free ride... are you daft? They'll "average" it out, and charge us all more... it's called "fair". You believe in "fairness", don't you?
Oh I know, I hear the tree huggers with their well worn Birkenstocks, a granola crumb hanging from their bicycle helmet strap saying, "We need to reduce our carbon foot print."
Lemme tell you where I want to stick my foot print!
Everything will cost MORE.
It's a TAX. It is ECONOMIC POLICY, not environmental policy, and it's a bean counting exercise. 1 in 7 people are currently in some sort of "civil service", now we'll get to 1 in 6 so Jack can get the CO2 police out there.
This is BAD for Canada.This is BAD for me, and if you heat your home, buy groceries, drive anywhere, and need to buy almost anything, it's bad for YOU TOO.