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Soldiers at work on flood-mitigation efforts along Assiniboine

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WINNIPEG - Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton told the legislature this afternoon that the increased projected flows along the Assiniboine present "a serious challenge for the Portage Diversion and the upper Assiniboine River."

"Rapid upgrades to both the diversion channel and the river dikes downstream of Portage will be required to help manage these record flows," he said.

Ashton said the military will be used to help reinforce and monitor dikes from Portage la Prairie to Headingley. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be arriving in stages today and tomorrow.

"Even with the planned upgrades to dikes and the diversion channel, we will be facing water beyond the capacity of the system. And we’re finalizing options to maintain this increased water in a controlled way."

Ashton also said that for administrative purposes, the government is declaring "a localized provincial state of emergency" for the city and RM of Portage la Prairie and for the RMs of Woodlands, Rosser, St. Francois Xavier, Headingley, Cartier, Macdonald and Grey.

"This is not related in any way to the presence of the military in the area. Rather this is for provincial and municipal flood-fighting efforts."

Approximately 150 soldiers have started working on flood-mitigation efforts along the Assiniboine River and another 350 will join them over the next few days.

One hundred soldiers, most of them from CFB Shilo, are helping to raise a dike along the Assiniboine near Poplar Point, east of Portage la Prairie, while another 30 to 50 are working in Brandon, said Lieutenant Colonel Shane Schreiber of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

Another 350 soldiers will be deployed over the next three days, he said. A further 300 are standing by in Edmonton, bringing the total potential deployment to 800, Schreiber said.

Soldiers will use trucks and boats to transfer sandbags and other supplies into difficult-to-reach areas along the Assiniboine, Schreiber said.

Soldiers are trained to work in difficult conditions - mud and rain - that may be dangerous for civilian volunteers, he said. The boats are light zodiacs, he added.

Premier Greg Selinger said the main concern is protecting rural areas along the Assiniboine River. He would not speculate about the prospects of the Assiniboine spilling its banks and flooding into the La Salle River.

The province is, however, considering controlled cuts in the dike to prevent wider spills, said Anne Burns, CAO of the Rural Municipality of Cartier.

About 40 properties are threatened in Cartier alone, she said.

History

Updated on Monday, May 9, 2011 at 2:19 PM CDT: Adds information from Rural Municipality of Cartier.

2:44 PM: Adds information from the legislature

4:40 PM: Corrects name of company

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