The Manitoba government has committed $250 million to the building of two permanent outlet channels to prevent future flooding on Lake Manitoba.
Premier Greg Selinger made the announcement in Winnipeg on Wednesday, indicating construction could begin within three years.
“We’re going to do all the studies, get the ball rolling on this,” said Selinger. “It’s going to make these people’s lives more stable for the future.”
In the fall of 2011 the province built an emergency channel from Lake St. Martin to Big Buffalo Lake to lower water levels. That channel will now become permanent, while a possible five routes will be examined to create a new channel from Lake Manitoba to Lake St. Martin.
The two projects are expected to cost $250 million by completion, which is expected to take eight years inclusive of design and engineering work.
“This is one of the most significant commitments we’re making as a result of raising the PST by one per cent; it provides resources for this project to go ahead,” said Selinger.
The process of building the new channel and making the existing one permanent will require consultation and regulatory approvals that take time, Selinger said, noting the emergent nature of the 2011 flood negated those procedures.
“We were very fortunate in 2011 that we got a lot of those requirements waived to build that emergency channel,” he said.
Adding that other flood mitigation recommendations made in the reports will be considered in the future, Selinger said climate change is making extreme weather a real and present danger that requires a “more aggressive mitigation style.”
“We’ve seen three major flood risks in this province in the last five years, so that tells you that the gap between major events is shortening and the severity is increasing, the 2011 flood was the worst in the history of Manitoba,” said Selinger.
Provincial opposition leader Brian Pallister on Wedesday mocked the government’s plan as a “‘diversion’ diversion” and an attempt to “change the channel by proposing a channel that’s been proposed for half a century.”
— Shannon VanRaes is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator in Winnipeg. Follow her @ShannonVanRaes on Twitter. Includes files from AGCanada.com staff.