Manitoba's Lake St. Martin emergency flood channel to open

The Manitoba government has received approval from the federal government to operate the emergency flood channel at Lake St. Martin on July 2.
A view of the Lake St. Martin channel, looking southwest from the drainage area back to the inlet of the edge of Lake St. Martin, while still under construction in October 2011. (Province of Manitoba)

The Manitoba government has received approval from the federal government to operate the emergency flood channel at Lake St. Martin to ease high levels on Lake Manitoba as well as Lake St. Martin.

The province will make an official announcement later today.

The $250-million channel, which opened in November 2011, redirects water from Lake St. Martin to Big Buffalo Lake, where it then flows naturally into the Dauphin River and eventually into Lake Winnipeg.

But the channel is currently only temporary, so officials can't operate it at all times and need federal approval to do so.

The province has looked into making the channel a permanent structure but before that happens, an environmental assessment and infrastructure changes must take place.

Officials have estimated that making the channel permanent would take about eight years.

Those who live near Lake Manitoba say they're worried the channel opening may not be enough.

Mona Sedleski, a councillor with the Rural Municipality of St. Laurent, says opening the emergency outlet will bring down lake levels, but at a slow rate.

Sedleski said her big worry is if the provincial government also opens the Portage Diversion, which would add more water to Lake Manitoba.

"I know they don't have a choice — they're not going to flood the city of Winnipeg. By the same token, then you've got to open up the other end of Lake Manitoba to let it out faster," she told CBC News on Wednesday.

Sedleski said the province needs to build a channel going out of Lake Manitoba to help it drain faster.