‘We will become a lake’: Manitoba farmer raises alarm over dike built near U.S. border

A southern Manitoba farmer is raising alarms over a dike built on the U.S. side of the border, saying it could have a devastating impact on his land this spring.

Barry Friesen, who has been farming west of Emerson for 30 years, is worried about the dike built by a U.S. farmer. He says the construction was unlawful.

“The work he did stretches about 2.5 miles,” he said, adding several culverts have been destroyed during the work.

Friesen adds, “When the melt happens, our water needs to flow south and it won’t, we will become a lake.”

It is a concern also shared by the R.M. on Montcalm, where Friesen’s farm is located.

“The RM of Montcalm has submitted a complaint to the Pembina County Water District regarding illegal drainage work being done by a landowner in the Pembina County that has impeded the natural flow of water from Canada into North Dakota as it makes its way to the Red River,” a statement from the RM reads.

Barry Friesen, who farms in the RM of Montcalm, says a dike built by a farmer on the U.S. side of the border will lead to his farm land being flooded. (Submitted: Barry Friesen)

The Pembina County Water District dismissed the claim earlier this week, citing a lack of jurisdiction due to the proximity of the dike to the border. CTV News reached out to the district, but has not yet received a response.

Friesen says there is approximately 20 feet of property near the border controlled by the International Boundary Commission (IBC), a long-standing partnership between Canada and the United States.

Natural Resources Canada tells CTV News that the IBC has not authorized work within the international boundary, and has requested that the portion of land be restored to its original profile.

The Manitoba government says it is working with Ottawa on the situation.

“Our Manitoba government is committed to protecting our waters and landowners,” Kevin Klein, Manitoba’s minister of environment and climate change, said in a statement. “North Dakota law, the Pembina County Water Resource District and the State of North Dakota have clear responsibilities to address illegal drainage activities in their jurisdiction. We will continue to press for this violation to be addressed.”

Friesen hopes the dike is removed before the spring melt starts in the coming weeks.

“If the water does not flow south, our land will be submerged in water all summer,” he said. “We cannot farm our land.”

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