(Photo by QMI Agency) The emergency channel at Lake St. Martin.
More than 7,000 cubic feet of water per second are expected to flow through the emergency channel constructed by the province north of Lake St. Martin in just a few days.
During a tour of the construction site Friday, Premier Greg Selinger announced the channel should be operational by Nov. 1.
Preliminary work on the project began in early July as equipment was hauled to the site, and later transported by barge over Lake St. Martin. Drainage and access roads also needed to be built over the summer months. Finally, digging started on Aug.29.
Over the last nine weeks or so, more than 95 pieces of heavy equipment, including excavators, bulldozers and assorted trucks, plus barges, tugs and other boats, have been operated steadily. Nearly 150 workers were needed in peak periods. In the last month, construction has continued in 12 hour shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
That pace, says Selinger, was needed in order to be able to lower water levels in the Interlake region quickly.
"The whole design was to ensure that we could get (the channel) open as soon as possible before freeze-up, essentially, and to flow the maximum amount of water," said the premier. "In the absence of this project, there would have been very significant flooding in the Lake St. Martin area... more flooding next spring on Lake Manitoba would have almost been a certainty."
More than six kilometres long, and about 45 metres wide at its centre, the channel was designed to help divert water from Lake St. Martin to Big Buffalo Lake, and on to Little Buffalo Lake, Buffalo Creek and the Dauphin
River and, finally, Lake Winnipeg.
On average, about 3,000 cfs will flow through the Lake St. Martin to Big Buffalo Lake channel once the initial drainage occurs. This will result in lower levels on Lake St. Martin and, in turn, lower Lake Manitoba levels by allowing the Fairford Dam Structure to remain open throughout the winter.
This week, Lake St. Martin water levels were measured by Manitoba Water Stewardship at about 804.2 feet while Lake Manitoba sat at about 814.5 feet as of Oct. 19. Selinger said he hopes to see those levels on Lake Manitoba decrease at least two and a half more feet by spring.