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Governments promise $495M for Lake Manitoba flood channel

The federal and Manitoba governments have promised $495 million for two channels to ease flooding near communities such as Lake St. Martin.
The federal and Manitoba governments have promised $495 million for two channels to ease flooding near communities such as Lake St. Martin. Lauren McNabb / Global News

LUNDAR, Man. – It’s been four years since residents along Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin were flooded out.

The federal and provincial governments announced funding Friday to build a channel to help lower lake levels, but some wonder if it’s not just another political move as an election looms. Canadians go to the polls Oct. 19.

Twin Lakes Beach resident Jim Stevenson says while he’s happy the Federal government is helping he questions the timing.

“that’s all they do is politic, they do nothing until they have to,” said Stevenson.

Hundreds of residents of lakeside communities, including Delta Beach, Twin Lakes Beach, Lundar and along Lake St. Martin, were forced from their homes and cottages by flooding in 2011.

It happened after an record level flood on the Assiniboine River which forced the Portage Division to divert more water into Lake Manitoba causing lake levels to rise.  Then when a massive wind storm hit, it caused nine-foot high waves to crash onto the shore destroying everything in its path.

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Homes were destroyed and many First Nations people were displaced.  1913 residents are still displaced, 1802 of them are first nations people.

The federal government will contribute $165 million towards building a channel to drain Lake Manitoba into Lake St. Martin through the Dauphin River and then into Lake Winnipeg. The channel will be the largest flood mitigation project since the Winnipeg floodway was built. The provincial government will spend $330 million, with the total project costing $495 million.

But few new details were released about the channel on Friday.

There are two options still being discussed and studied. The channel will either come out of Lake Manitoba near Watchorn Bay and run its way through farmland and into the southern tip of Lake St Martin, or go through the Fairford First Nation.

The province’s engineers say it will still be two years before construction begins, but Friday’s announcement was insisted on by the federal government, provincial officials said.

Conservative MP Candice Bergen stood on the banks of Lundar Beach to announce the federal government’s involvement. The announcement comes just days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce an election on Sunday.  But Bergen denied that was the reason she was there.

“We make announcements many days different days of the week and we’re happy we could be here today Friday and announce this,”said Bergen.

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Some residents are still waiting for full compensation following the 2011 flood, some have rebuilt on higher ground, and others haven’t returned to a place they once called paradise.