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Record rain results in Manitoba opening emergency channel to prevent flooding

WINNIPEG - Record precipitation is prompting Manitoba to open up an emergency channel to prevent flooding around Lake Manitoba.

High water is also prompting officials to look at using two other diversions to relieve pressure the Winnipeg region.

Emergency Measures Minister Steve Ashton said the province is opening a channel on Lake St Martin that drains water from Lake Manitoba and eventually dumps it in Lake Winnipeg. Using the channel should reduce the level of Lake Manitoba by about 15 centimetres, he said.

The soggy weather has also prompted the government to consider using the Red River floodway, which diverts water around Winnipeg, and the Portage diversion, a channel that funnels water from the Assiniboine River into Lake Manitoba.

"We need a break in the weather," Ashton said Wednesday at a flood briefing.

"We could use hot, dry weather. After a long, cold winter, we've had a wet, wet spring and summer. We're not done yet by the looks of the forecast."

The emergency channel at Lake St. Martin was built for $100 million in 2011 to ease pressure on Lake Manitoba. It is only a temporary channel which requires federal approval to operate. The province received that approval as water nears what is considered to be flood stage.

The channel is expected to open next week. In the meantime, Ashton said officials are weighing other options if the rain keeps coming.

"If the weather continues to be unseasonable, we've got tools available and we will use them," he said.

Up to 400,000 hectares of farmland could go unseeded in southwestern Manitoba this year because soggy conditions and relentless rain are making it impossible for farmers to get on their fields.

Steve Topping, executive director of hydrologic forecasting and water management, said the province has received 200 per cent more precipitation than normal this spring.

Lake Manitoba is high and can be whipped up even more by high winds, he said.

"We are putting out wind alerts on a daily basis," Topping said.

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