The federal and provincial governments have announced $540 million for the project and say ground might break by fall 2019.
The completed project will dig two permanent 23-kilometre channels, one connecting Lake Manitoba with Lake St. Martin. Another will connect Lake St. Martin and Lake Winnipeg, replacing the current emergency outlet put in place in 2011. The province says the new Lake St. Martin channel will move water 7,500 cubic feet per second faster than the current emergency outlet.
Two bridges and water control structures, a rerouted highway and a 24-kilovolt distribution line are also in the works.
Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler praised the long-awaited approval of the project.
“For decades, people around Lake Manitoba have been subject to flooding and natural disasters. This project has been discussed and debated for over 60 years, and our government is proud to partner with the federal government to ensure that this becomes a reality,” he said in a written email statement.
“Our government is committed to a respectful process in dealing with landowners, as we know that the people affected by the floods along the lake have already sacrificed so much. This process will take some time, but we will work in a collaborative manner to ensure that this important project is completed to prevent further destruction and hardship.”
The project stalled after being promised in 2013, emerging again in 2015 with the announcement of provincial and federal funds and later making it onto now Premier Brian Pallister’s campaign talking points in 2016.
Project director Mark Allard says the $540 million announced June 18 covers the full estimate for the project. Of that, the federal government has agreed to pitch in half of the prior $495-million estimate, with the rest covered by the province.
“If there are additional requirements — we hope not — from a funding perspective they would solely come from Manitoba,” he said.
The announcement has also raised new questions on how the outlets will impact the Portage Diversion.
Allard said the province expects the outlets to be largely independent of the Portage Diversion, and should not impact farms that watch with a wary eye any time that diversion is opened.
“There is no proposal to change the current operation of the Portage Diversion. There’s no proposal on the table to increase the capacity of the Portage Diversion,” he said.
The project must now pass its environmental impact assessment and acquire private lands before construction can begin. Work has begun on an access road to the Lake St. Martin construction site.
Lake Manitoba channelWidth: 400 metresCapacity: 7,500 cubic feet per secondLength: 23 kilometres
Lake St. Martin channelWidth: 225 metresCapacity: 11,500 cubic feet per secondLength: 23 kilometres
Note: Width includes the total footprint of the channel, including banks and drainage ditches.