On August 18, Eric Blais of AECOM and Doug McNeil, Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, headed an Open House at Canad Inns Polo Park, Winnipeg, about the Emergency Channel to relieve water levels on Lake St. Martin and Lake Manitoba. The following was recorded during the question and answer portion.
Q: What can you offer us in terms of a progress report?
EB: Contracts were signed this week Monday. Construction equipment is mobilizing as we speak. We hope to have 60 pieces of equipment on the other side of the lake by September 1.
DM: I was up there yesterday; there are 12 pieces up there right now. Accessibility is our biggest issue because this is such a remote site. We’ve basically taken over the hotel in Gypsumville, the campground off PR513, is it called Big Rock? We’ve lost several days because we can’t take the barge over due to weather.
We’ve had to make tough decisions and we’re doing that. We’re getting a lot of heat because we didn’t ask for tenders. Well, that takes six weeks, so we went with contractors we know, with the right equipment, the right experience.
Let’s be honest. Those contractors still don’t know how they’re going to build the channel. If they can dewater the area, as it were, and use conventional methods, they will really be able to move on this channel.
So far we’ve built a road in the first km of the seven-km stretch. The plan is to build the road down those entire 7 kms, and then start on the channel and work upstream.
Q: You’re working on the road now, you’re hoping for 60 pieces of equipment there for September 1. Are we to assume you’re hoping to begin actual work on the actual channel September 1?
EB: Yes, that’s what we’re aiming for. The logistics of this project are staggering. We’re working on getting a big barge from Ontario. But you know, how do you get that down the Trans Canada Highway? I’m on the phone with the Coast Guard finding appropriate buoys for our barges. We need two tankers of fuel on a barge every day to keep this project going.
Maybe we set up kitchens, medical personnel, everything we need over there for 100 men so they can stay and we don’t have to be dependent on the weather and crossing back over.
Q: Are you planning for working around the clock, 24 hours a day?
DM: At this point, we just don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to because that just adds another layer of concern. Now we need lights, there are heightened safety concerns, which are already high because we’re so remote.
Q: Should we understand the logistics of the project will require more than the actual construction of the channel?
EB: Well, we’re asking a lot of these contractors. We’re talking about 60 m at the base, probably 70-80 m at the top. We’re asking for 50,000 cubic metres of dirt a day. We’re asking for 200 metres of channel a day, and we are saying a deadline of November 1.