Will it happen again? Can it happen again? Probably yes in both cases. Just a matter of when. What I am referring to is the Rainy Lake flood of 2022.
I am no expert in all the issues of the flood, but I am familiar to the area and also have a personal concern with the lake levels and flooding. I was born and raised in Fort Frances and left in 1965 to attend University in Bemidji. I have lived there since but have kept a strong relationship with Fort Frances as I have family, friends and since 1989, a cabin on Rainy Lake. For the last six to seven years I have also been involved in maintaining and caring for the “family” cabin, also situated on an island on Rainy. Both locations had extensive flood damage to structures, docks, decks, vegetation, and shoreline. This is why I am concerned about the lake levels now and in the future. Last year, there was three months of flooding and this year will be months of fixing and repairing the damage done.
Last year’s flood could not have been fully prevented, but it may have been lessened if the authorities — ILC/WLC would have approved local requests in early March to increase the outflow. The request was ignored, and look at the outcome. There would have still been flooding but not as severe and long lasting. The high water level may have been held 6-12” lower. The flood was caused by the “perfect storm” of heavy snowfall, heavy rainfall and water runoff over still frozen ground.
How much less damage would have it resulted in? In my case and I am sure many others, this would have lessened the amount of damage.
In my opening statement I asked, “will this happen again? Can it happen again?” Yes to both questions. Hopefully last year’s flood was a “lesson learned” situation. To continue this real time updated weekly reporting, individuals and organizations (Rainy Lake Property Owners Association — RLPOA) will have to continue holding the government bodies’ (IJC, WLC, USACOE) feet to the fire and keep the communications open between them and NOAA/NWS. Another issue to be aware of and that has the potential of impeding the outflow of Rainy Lake is the proposed new rail bridge at Rainier. Statistics show that this structure’s related pilings, piers, and abutments could slow the lake outflow by 10 per cent. Not good!
Individuals questioning these issues will not work. With most individuals; politicians, government administrators, and bureaucrats will tell you what you want to hear and then walk away, more than likely to never be heard from again.
On Rainy Lake, we need a large, vocal, united group to address and be heard, regarding the high/low water curves, lake levels and inflow/outflow, to try and keep any flooding or high water to a minimum. It seems that the Rainy Lake basin takes the brunt of the problem and the damage that comes with it.
There is a Lake of the Woods property association that has over 1,000 members. I do not know the ratio of American to Canadian members. There is also a Kabetogema/Namakan organization that I do not know the membership count but I know it is quite influential. Then we have the RLPOA. That was formed in 2015 and as of last September, it had a bit over 300 members, but only three of them were Canadian. Since then, there may be seven more Canadian members. Two-thirds of Rainy is in Canada, so the flood did not stop at the International boundary line. It affected properties in both countries. The RLPOA needs more members and involvement from Canadian property owners. With more Canadian members, Fort Frances and International Falls town councils and possibly the First nations groups united under the RLPOA, there would be a strong lobbying group that the governing organizations would have to answer to. Several months ago, two individuals (Dennis Wagner and Craig McKenzie) from International Falls addressed the Fort Frances town council regarding the flood issues and the proposed new rail bridge.
The RLPOA will be holding their annual meeting on June 22, 2023, at the Thunderbird Lodge. Doors open at 5 p.m. Any and all interested parties are welcome to attend. There will be a presentation and updates of water control issues and present high/low curves. There will be complimentary appetizers and a cash bar. It will be a great time to exchange information, compare individuals’ flood damage and meet fellow Rainy Lake property owners. Time to unite!