A $100-million canal that will divert water into Lake Winnipeg from Lake St. Martin will not cause further flooding in the area, Manitoba's emergency measures minister says.

"First of all, it is important to remember that the water comes through Lake Manitoba into Lake Saint Martin and ends up in Lake Winnipeg anyway," Steve Ashton told Louise Martin in an interview Saturday on CBC News Network.

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Emergency Meaures Minister Steve Ashton calls the $100-million canal one of the most ambitious engineering projects in Manitoba's history. ((CBC News))

"It's just a question of when it ends up in Lake Winnipeg, and the engineers are saying that essentially the impact — the time that this additional release will probably be in the range of a quarter of an inch. That water would end up in Lake Winnipeg, it's just a matter of the timing."  

Ashton said the eight-kilometre canal, which is already underway, is one of the most ambitious construction projects in recent Manitoba history, and the province has put it on the fast track.

"We have gone through all the steps that might perhaps take a number of years," Ashton said. "We have done it in weeks. We simply don't have the time. We cannot do nothing."

The plan, Ashton said, is to get the project completed before the spring.

'This emergency channel solves the immediate situation for both Lake Saint Martin and Lake Manitoba.'— Steve Ashton, emergency measures minister 

"Our goal … is very challenging on the construction side. If we can meet the construction deadlines we'll be able to get lake Manitoba and Lake Saint Martin back to much more normal ranges by next spring, and that will save many more homes and communities," Ashton said.

According to the engineers, the problem is in Lake Saint Martin, Ashton said.

"What happens is, Lake Saint Martin backs up, and we're not able to get more water out of Lake Manitoba as well. This emergency channel solves the immediate situation for both Lake Saint Martin and Lake Manitoba," he said.

Ashton said the plan has been well received by area residents.

"I went directly to people [on Friday] and ... they recognize that this is a really serious effort to deal with immediate flooding. Everyone I talked to said it was good. Some people say we need to do more."