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Two new outlet channels will reduce flooding, province says

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The Selinger government promised today to build two outlet channels to reduce flooding on Lake Manitoba and Lake St. Martin by 2021.

Construction will begin on the two channels in 2016 following the completion of engineering studies and environmental approvals. The combined cost of the projects is expected to reach $250 million, Premier Greg Selinger announced today.

The province will build a new channel to drain Lake Manitoba into Lake St. Martin while making permanent an emergency channel built in 2011 draining Lake St Martin into Lake Winnipeg. The emergency channel may be expanded to increase its capacity, government officials said.

The province will examine five possible routes for a new Lake Manitoba outlet channel that were identified earlier in a consultant’s report to see which provides the best bang for the buck, Selinger said.

The premier said the two channels will mitigate against the type of flood damage suffered by communities alongside the two Manitoba lakes during the 2011 flood.

"It’s going to make these people’s lives more stable for the future..." Selinger said.

He said it’s the same approach that was taken when the federal and provincial governments protected Red River Valley communities from flooding after the 1997 flood.

Selinger, flanked by Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton at a news conference at the Legislative Building, called the announcement "one of the most significant commitments" the province will make as a result of its decision to raise the PST by one percentage point.

"It provides resources for this project to go ahead, and it will make a generational difference for the people in that area," he said.

Government officials said only about 20 per cent of the estimated project cost — or $50 million — is expected to be spent before construction begins in 2016. The money will cover engineering studies and other preparatory work.

Selinger pointed out, however, that there will be more flood mitigation announcements in the future.

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