Relief on the way for Delta community
Portage MLA and Minister of Education and Training, Ian Wishart (left), Interlake MLA Derek Johnson (middle), and Premier Brian Pallister address residents of Delta Beach during a town hall event in Portage la Prairie Monday night. (Brian Oliver/The Graphic)
Community members from Delta Beach received some good news today.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister stopped in Portage la Prairie this evening to deliver an update on the Lake Manitoba flood outlet project to members of the Delta Beach community, who know all too well the devastation high lake levels can cause.
"The uncertainty of lake levels and flooding is something that people have experienced for years and years," said Pallister. "We're wanting to move ahead with the outlet construction at the north end of Lake Manitoba to give these people their lives back and to make sure they are protected and safe."
Audience members at the town hall event were told by the Premier that he is lobbying the federal government for support on the $540 million project and has even written to the Prime Minister in hopes of expediting the process.
"I've emphasized in a letter to the Prime Minister that we need to treat this project as an (emergency construction) project, one that could well threaten people going forward, as it has in the past," adds the Premier. "I encouraged him to let us move ahead with the (project), beginning with the construction of an access road this year. But we would need the federal government's support to go further by the end of the year and start really getting into the construction phase of the project. That's what we're after."
The full project will add two outlets, one at Lake St. Martin and another at Lake Manitoba. Assuming the channels get the green light from the feds, the earliest the construction phase can begin is Nov. 2018, in order to be in accordance with consultation regulations with First Nations communities.
Planning for an outlet began after Lake Manitoba reached a one-in-2,000-year flood level in 2011, which led governments to spend $1 billion on flood fighting and compensation. The flood forced 7,100 Manitobans to be displaced from their homes, affected three million hectares of farmland, led ranchers to move thousands of livestock and triggered the closure of 850 roads, according the province’s website.
Current flood projections for the area are not a major concern, however the project's expected two-year time line could mean residents will be vulnerable to flooding for years to come.
"Compared to the past years we're sitting pretty good, high wind events can still wreak a little havoc out there, especially when it's coming straight from the north or northwest," noted RM of Portage Reeve, Kam Blight, who was one of a number of local political figures in attendance. "Right now we're in a better situation than we have been in the past, but things can change."
The project was originally projected to cost $500 million and was to be jointly funded by the province and the then Harper government. When the construction of the channels does eventually begin, it will mark the largest construction project undertaken by the province since the 2014 Red River Floodway Expansion Project, which, according to the province, cost approximately $627 million.
"We just want to give (residents) the security they deserve and get this project on the go," reiterated Pallister. "We don't really feel that there's a necessity for the federal government to prolong or delay the process."