* Deliberate breach will eventually flood 180 square km
* Assiniboine was near crest on Monday at Brandon
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, May 16 (Reuters) - Saturday’s deliberate breach of a dike on Manitoba’s Assiniboine River had caused floodwaters to surround only three homes by Monday as warm dry weather helped the Canadian Prairie province control the river’s highest levels on record.
The intentional breach was meant to ease pressure on stressed dikes so that worse, unplanned flooding from a dike failure could be avoided. But the controlled resulting flow of water onto farmland has been slower than the Manitoba government had planned.
Officials estimate the flood will cover up to 72 square miles (180 square km) of land over the next few days, down from the 90 square miles they had estimated on Saturday. Much of that is rich farmland that usually grows wheat and vegetables.
The province had also said that 150 homes could be flooded.
“Yes, we’ve made a lot of progress over the last few days,” said Steve Ashton, Manitoba’s minister of infrastructure. “(But) there’s no all-fair flood siren going out.”
Across Manitoba, 3,600 people have been forced to leave their homes due to the threat of flooding.
All three homes in the intentionally flooded area east of Portage la Prairie have dikes that are holding back the water, said Steve Topping, an official at the government’s water stewardship branch.
The Assiniboine was near its peak on Monday at Brandon, the province’s second-biggest city, where at least 1,300 people have left their homes.
About 1,500 Canadian soldiers are helping local volunteers with sandbag operations.
The province is diverting some water off the Assiniboine into Lake Manitoba, which looks to reach its highest level in 50 years by mid-June, provincial officials said.
Ranchers there have had to move thousands of cattle because of flooded pastures.
Flooding has already ebbed along the Red River, which runs north into Manitoba from the northern U.S. Plains. That will allow Manitoba to reopen its main highway to the United States on Tuesday. (Reporting by Rod Nickel; editing by Peter Galloway)