Flood channels are emergency projects that need quick federal approval, Manitoba premier says
Premier Brian Pallister says the need for two flood channels at Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba is an emergency and he's asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fast-track approval for the projects.
The Manitoba premier said Monday that he's already sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to that effect.
Pallister took several cabinet ministers and MLAs to an open house at a community centre on Monday in St. Laurent, on Lake Manitoba about 80 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
The meeting also was attended by about 100 area residents, many of whom suffered property damage from the 2011 flood and applauded the premier's remarks.
Gil Giardin has lived in the area for close to 40 years and said the project will benefit future generations.
"They should have done that 20 years ago," he said. "Even the year the flood came, I never thought the water would be that high. In front of our house, we had more than six feet ... more."
"Our major concern is, let's not wait. We have the urgency, all our people have the urgency to get this completed as soon as we can," he said.
Homes and cottages on the south basin were flooded when Lake Manitoba reached a record high level in 2011, following a windstorm that capped off one of the most widespread flooding events in the province's history.
But the province determined that wasn't a big enough difference to prevent real damage in another major flood event, and wanted a channel that could be operated at all times. So in 2013 the province announced plans to expand and make permanent the Lake St. Martin channel and create a new outlet for Lake Manitoba.
The cost of the two 23-kilometre channels will likely exceed $500 million, Pallister said, but he balanced that against the damage caused by severe flooding in 2011.
Previous floods have cost the Manitoba government more than $1 billion in flood compensation, he said.
Pallister wants to have the two channels completed in a year.
Deputy Reeve Dan Meisner said 18 families will be affected, and four will have to move entirely.
"Farmers don't farm today and shut down tomorrow or move in a day. You are not moving an apartment ... you know what I mean? They are very concerned," Meisner said.
"Mr. Pallister talks about sitting at the kitchen table with farmers all the time and he's done that for years. Well, I'll tell you it's pretty tough for me as their councillor, to sit at their tables and talk about their future — they're in tears all the time."