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Manitoba moves ahead with 2nd outlet on Lake Manitoba it hopes eases flooding

WINNIPEG - The provincial government is moving ahead with the construction of a second flood channel on Lake Manitoba that it hopes will eventually ease chronic flooding in the region.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the construction of a new outlet will cost at least $300 million, but the province is hoping Ottawa will pick up at least some of that tab.

"Historically, every major infrastructure project has been significantly funded by the federal government," he said Monday. "We would be looking to the federal government to cost-share this as well."

Water has been pouring into Manitoba from Saskatchewan over the past weeks, prompting the province to declare a state of emergency and call on the military to help with frantic sandbagging efforts.

That flood water, which is diverted away from Winnipeg primarily through the Portage Diversion channel, ends up in Lake Manitoba or Lake Winnipeg.

An initial crest of water on the swollen Assiniboine River has made its way to Lake Manitoba while a second is expected to hit Portage la Prairie west of Winnipeg as early as Tuesday. Lake Manitoba is already at flood levels and is being whipped up by high winds, Ashton said.

"Our goal is to get even more water out of Lake Manitoba," Ashton said.

Manitoba spent $100 million after the 2011 flood carving out a channel that drains water from Lake Manitoba into Lake Winnipeg. This second outlet is expected to take at least seven years to complete, Ashton said.

"If there is any way we can shorten the time frame, we will," he said.

Ashton couldn't say how many homes a second channel would protect along the shoreline of Lake Manitoba. The province has spent millions beefing up flood protection around the lake and many homes are better protected now than they were in 2011, he said.

Permanent diking isn't possible because people have built so close to the shoreline, Ashton said.

But some homeowners in the region are demanding action. A group called the Lake Manitoba Flood Rehabilitation Committee says the government has neglected the farmers, homeowners and businesses around Lake Manitoba.

Tom Teichroeb, chair of the committee, said this is the second major flood in four years.

"Can we expect all Canadians to keep funding the perpetual flooding of Lake Manitoba?" he said in a release. "We demand flood solutions for Lake Manitoba and strategies for the reduction in the amount of water discharged through the Portage Diversion immediately."

The province and the military will continue to monitor the dikes along the Assiniboine as the second crest moves through the region.

The province has set up mobile recovery centres in some of the worst-hit areas and officials expect this flood will cost millions in damages to municipal roads and bridges.

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