Feds flow $2.5M to Peguis First Nation for flood repairs, but more needed amid scale of devastation: chief

The federal government is providing $2.5 million to flood-ravaged Peguis First Nation, and while the funds are welcomed, the leader of the Manitoba Interlake community says much more is needed for repairs and future mitigation.

Indigenous Services Canada confirmed this week that they have committed the funds, and Chief Glenn Hudson said the money is earmarked for flood repairs and recovery. So far $2 million has been received, Hudson said Thursday, and the rest is expected soon.

Peguis has already incurred nearly $5 million on flood fighting, recovery and cleanup expenses, he said.

“They’ve [ISC] assured us that they will be covering those costs because obviously for a First Nation to absorb that is simply not possible in terms of our annual budget, and we rely on them as far as emergency measures,” Hudson said Thursday. “This is the worst flooding in our history and the most devastating flood.”

The help comes as more of the 1,500 evacuees return amid a cleanup effort that’s revealed just how devastating the impact has been. 

Hudson said about 700 homes have been damaged in some way, and 170 of those will need new furnaces and hot water tanks. 

The widespread nature of the Fisher River flooding is evident from this aerial image of Peguis First Nation in May. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Some roads have been repaired while others remain washed out, he said, while community water sources and septic systems continue to be tested for safety purposes.

Meanwhile, Hudson said an additional 64 homes were flooded this week, when another Colorado low weather system blew through, bringing more rain and wind.

“The response in terms of flood fighting is always going to be an issue for us because of flash flooding,” he said. 

He said in past floods the community has spent up to $18 million on a flood-related expenses, and he expects that figure will be exceeded this year.

Feds declined request ahead of flood

Hudson previously told CBC News the federal government rejected a request from Peguis in March for $1.5 million in anticipation of a flood. ISC confirms it turned down that request for flood preparation resources, citing the provincial hydrological forecasts at the time that suggested there was a low risk of flooding in the Interlake.

“ISC’s Emergency Management Assistance Program, which reimburses response and recovery activities due to emergencies, helping communities recover in a timely, durable and holistic way, could not be accessed for advance flood funding at that time due to the forecast indicating a low risk of flooding,” ISC said in a statement Thursday.

Peguis Chief Glenn Hudson says his community requested $1.5 million in advance flood preparation funding in March. The federal government turned down that request, citing Manitoba’s hydrological forecast suggesting a low risk of Interlake flooding. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Hudson said the low-lying community routinely applies for and receives about $1 million from the federal government in the spring to shore up its defences against possible flooding.

Locals predicted a significant flood was on the way this spring given high snowfall amounts, he said, which is why Peguis requested more from ISC this year.

“This year they cut out all of that in terms of the preparedness,” Hudson said. “We didn’t receive it until the response was happening.”

An ISC spokesperson said the first $1 million was received by Peguis on May 31, weeks after the flood and evacuations began. Another $1.5 million was approved; Peguis has received $1 million of that so far; and ISC expects the remaining $500,000 to be sent to Peguis by the end of this week.

With the newly flooded 64 homes and the cleanup still on the go, Hudson said he hopes governments continue the support.

“They have to keep up obviously with the demands,” he said. 

“In terms of getting long-term mitigation in place, that’s going to be anywhere from one year to five years, but we still are at risk of flooding — daily, weekly, monthly.”

WATCH | ‘Overwhelming’ cleanup begins in Peguis First Nation (May 26):

‘Overwhelming’ cleanup begins in Peguis First Nation

7 days ago

Duration 2:45

As floodwaters recede in Manitoba’s Interlake, some Peguis First Nation evacuees are heading back to clean up the saturated community — and in some cases discovering devastating damage.