Design and construction contracts awarded for flood channels to manage Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin

The Manitoba government has chosen two engineering firms to start work on the multi-million dollar Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels project.

Project's $540 million price tag shared by provincial and federal governments

The $100-million emergency Lake St. Martin channel, opened in November 2011. On Friday the province announced the two engineering firms that will design and build permanent flood mitigation channels built at Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba. (Province of Manitoba)

The Manitoba government has chosen two engineering firms to start work on the multi-million dollar Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels project.

The province announced Friday Hatch Ltd. has been awarded the Lake Manitoba engineering design and construction oversight contract, while KGS Group has been chosen to handle the engineering design and construction oversight for the Lake St. Martin project.

The $540 million project, announced in June, will see two permanent flood mitigation channels built for both lakes.

"The Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin Outlet Channels project is vital to protect Manitobans who have sacrificed so much because of flooding," said Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler in a release.

"Better water control means better protection against flooding for these Manitobans and the sooner this work begins, the better."

A provincial map shows the planned Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba channels. (Province of Manitoba)

The project's costs are being shared by the federal and provincial governments, with Ottawa paying $247.5 million through its  Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund — a 10-year, $2-billion federal program aimed at blunting the effect of natural disasters linked to climate change.

The new outlet channels will significantly reduce the flood damage experienced by First Nations located along Lake St. Martin, complementing other regional flood protection infrastructure, Manitoba Premier, Brian Pallister said when the project was announced.

Costly flooding

Homes and cottages on the south basin were most recently flooded in 2011 and 2014. The worst of those was in 2011 when Lake Manitoba reached a record high level, devastating communities and homes and prompting emergency evacuations, some of them lasting a half-dozen years.

The disaster, which became one of the most widespread flooding events in the province's history, has cost governments hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation.

Some flood evacuees were only able to return to their homes last year after living in Winnipeg for years.

The federal and provincial governments are sharing the $540-million cost to build two permanent flood mitigation channels at Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba that have been years in the making. 2:32

The province announced plans in 2013 to make a permanent, expanded channel from Lake St. Martin to Lake Winnipeg and create a new outlet for Lake Manitoba that would flow to Lake St. Martin.

The new Lake Manitoba outlet channel will have a capacity of 7,500 cubic feet per second and the Lake St. Martin outlet will carry approximately 11,500 cfs at capacity.

The project involves building two approximately 23-kilometre-long diversion channels:

  • -The Lake Manitoba Outlet Channel will run north from Watchorn Bay on Lake Manitoba to Birch Bay on Lake St. Martin.
  • -The Lake St. Martin Outlet Channel will run northeast from Lake St. Martin to Lake Winnipeg south of Willow Point.

It also involves building two bridges and water control structures, a 24-kilovolt distribution line and adjusting surrounding highway infrastructure.

Construction could start as soon as fall 2019 but no estimated completion date has been announced.