Alumnus wins Leadership award
On June 26, 2009, the Provincial Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Ron Lemieux, announced the appointment of McNeil as Deputy Minister of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation effective June 29, 2009. In 2011, as Deputy Minister, McNeil led the Province’s response to the 1-in-300 year flood of the Assiniboine River including development of the $100 million flood relief channel from Lake St. Martin to Lake Winnipeg. These works were conceived, designed and constructed in an unprecedented six month timeframe under McNeil’s leadership and vision.
Prior to being appointed Deputy Minister, McNeil spent the previous six years with the Manitoba Floodway Authority as Vice-President of Engineering and Construction, and Vice-President of Hydraulics. He played a major role in the environmental approval process and was the Floodway Authority’s chief spokesperson at the Clean Environment Commission Hearings. He was responsible for all aspects of design and construction of the Floodway, including the West Dike, the hydraulic structures (Inlet Control Structure, the Outlet Structure and other drainage structures) and the bridges, associated highways and railways. McNeil was instrumental in completing greater than 90 per cent of the Red River Floodway Expansion Project.
As Vice-President of engineering and construction, and Vice-President of hydraulics, from 2003 to 2009 for the Manitoba Floodway Authority (MFA), McNeil’s contributions resulted in the MFA receiving a number of distinguished awards:
- June 2008: International Association of Macro Engineering Society (IAMES) recognized the Red River Floodway as one the world’s engineering marvels.
- June 2010: Canadian Society for Civil Engineering recognized the floodway as a National Historic Civil Engineering Site.
- June 2010: Manitoba Service Excellence Award for Innovation was awarded to the Manitoba Floodway Authority.
- October 2010: Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGM) recognized the MFA for an Outstanding Achievement Award.
The Floodway Expansion Project was initiated after the 1997 Red River flood which resulted in water levels in Winnipeg that took the existing flood control system, including the primary line of defence, gate control structures, flood pumping stations and the floodway channel itself to their absolute limits. The original floodway capacity was designed to accommodate a 1-in-160-year flood. Following the 1997 flood, however, the existing capacity was estimated to be closer to a 1-in-100-year event.
Work began on the $665 million expansion in 2005 following the various engineering studies and environmental approvals that where required prior to starting actual construction. McNeil was instrumental in providing the necessary leadership and vision for this project to proceed. The capacity of the expanded floodway was increased from 1,700 cms (60,000 cfs) to 4,000 cms (140,000 cfs) or approximately equal to 1-in-700-year flood event. It is expected to prevent more than $12 billion in damages if another 1-in-700 year event where to hit the City of Winnipeg without the expanded floodway.
Prior to joining the Manitoba Floodway Authority, McNeil spent 20 years with the City of Winnipeg in the Water and Waste Department in various engineering positions that covered water, wastewater, land drainage and flood protection disciplines. As senior engineer in his later years at the City, he led the land drainage and flood protection planning branch and this responsibility prepared him for a lead role in fighting first the 1996 flood (which had a magnitude similar to the 1979 flood) and then the “Flood of the Century” in 1997. Following these flood experiences, McNeil took a year secondment opportunity with the City of Winnipeg CAO Secretariat as project coordinator on the Winnipeg Development Agreement. On his return to the Water and Waste Department he managed the Federal/Provincial cost-shared flood proofing projects in the city. He also served on technical advisory committees of the early studies related to Floodway Expansion as the City of Winnipeg’s representative.
McNeil is also currently the President of the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC), a national association with a mission to promote the provision of safe, secure, efficient, effective and environmentally and financially sustainable transportation services in support of Canada’s social and economic goals.
He also serves on a number of boards including:
- Manitoba Water Services Board – Vice Chair
- Manitoba Floodway and East Side Road Authority – Chair
- Western Transportation Advisory Council (WESTAC)
- North America’s Corridor Coalition, Inc. (NASCO)
- Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Emergency Management and Public Safety
- Council of Deputy Ministers of Transportation and Highway Safety
- Churchill Gateway Development Corporation Board
- Conservation Districts Commission
McNeil’s body of work, leadership, and commitment to the profession is truly impressive, particularly during a time when the engineering profession, as a whole, is being challenged and questioned by those who do not appreciate the leadership, vision and skill required to accomplish these great engineering works.