Manitoba’s premier is urging the federal government to officially sign on to support the Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin flood channel project.
The governments have already agreed to share the estimated $540 million price tag for the project, which would see two diversion channels built between the lakes.
“This is the single-most important infrastructure project in recent Manitoba history,” said Brian Pallister in a release.
“We do not need another flood to show why this is the case.
“What we do need is for the federal government to show Manitobans it cares about climate change, Indigenous reconciliation, and the livelihood of farmers and communities by signing the joint funding agreement with us that is sitting on a desk in Ottawa.”
Severe flooding in the areas in 2011 and 2014 resulted in extensive damage to homes and businesses as well as evacuations in communities around Lake St. Martin.
The project, announced by both governments in 2018, will consist of building two 23-kilometre-long diversion channels:
- the Lake Manitoba Outlet Channel, which will run north from Watchorn Bay in Lake Manitoba to Birch Bay on Lake St. Martin, and
- the Lake St. Martin Channel, which will run northeast from Lake St. martin to Lake Winnipeg south of Willow Point
Construction of two bridges, water control structures and adjustment of surrounding highways are also included in the plan.
The two governments have previously said they will split the costs 50/50 at $247.5 million each.
On Thursday Pallister called on the federal government to “signal its support” for the project by signing a joint funding agreement with the Manitoba government.
He said he expects the work will see as many as 300 people hired over five years of construction and bring an estimated $335 million to Manitoba’s gross domestic product and another $165 to the GDP of other province’s supplying some of the construction material.
“2021 marks a decade since the dramatic events surrounding the flood of 2011. The physical, social and financial impacts of that flood are still impacting Manitobans. Far too many Indigenous and non-Indigenous people lost their homes, their community and their way of life. It’s time to put all that right,” said Pallister.
“We’re ready to sign today and call upon the federal government to join with us and sign too.”
The province says its already invested $5 million in environmental impact assessments and signed fully-funded consultation agreements with eight area First Nations.
While Manitoba for the most part avoided serious spring flooding in 2020, heavy rains caused what Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler called a “one-in-1,000-year-event” in July that flooded the Rivers Dam and other areas in Southern Manitoba.
A major storm system that produced up to 155 millimetres of rain in a few hours overwhelmed the Assiniboine River watershed and also produced a possible tornado.
More rain came the following day.
The effects of the flood washed downstream, hitting areas near and in Brandon and Minnedosa the hardest.
The Rivers Dam was in danger of collapsing two days later, but survived.
–With files from Elisha Dacey and Amber McGuckin.