News Manitoba

Researcher says restoring farmland to wetlands could reduce flooding

Paul Turenne, QMI Agency

A University of Manitoba researcher believes there's a solution that could not only reduce phosphate levels in Lake Winnipeg, but also reduce the magnitude of flooding in the province.

Greg McCullough, a research associate in the U of M's department of environment and geography, said Lake Winnipeg can receive much more phosphorus during one month of heavy flooding than during an entire year of dry conditions, due to the flood waters absorbing phosphorus from soils, crops, manure and other fertilizers in fields, then ultimately flowing into the lake.

Nutrient Loads

He said actions to reduce the phosphates available for absorption, such as the government's pending ban on winter spreading of manure, are "very important" when it comes to reducing the nutrient loads carried by floodwaters.

But McCullough added that reducing the volume of water that gets into the system at all would have the double benefit of reducing nutrient loads while also mitigating flooding.

This, he said, could be at least partly accomplished by taking "marginal" agricultural land - often former swamps that were drained - out of production and restoring them to wetlands.

Part of the plan announced by the province June 2 includes restoration of the Netley-Libau Marsh and a ban on new peat moss mining. McCullough called those "useful things" but suggested the government offer tax credits to producers to take marginal lands out of production and restore them to wetlands.

"We'll have to move further," he said.