Rainy Lake watershed concerns

Letter to the editor,

I am outraged at the seeming incompetence of the people who are responsible for the water levels on the Rainy Lake basin.

It is my understanding that the International Falls dam has 15 waste gates but due to the narrow passage at Ranier, 13 waste gates is considered maximum usefulness.

This winter we had near record snow fall and it was obvious that the chance of 0 waste gates being open during the spring runoff was near 0 and the chance of their being more than 8 waste gates open was very high. Therefore, in February both Namikan and Rainy Lake lake levels should have been targeted for the very bottom of the rule curve. By early March it was evident that the snow was not letting up and spring would be 2-3 weeks late and the target water level for Rainy Lake should have been at least 3-6 inches lower than the rule curve.

With a late ice out, the usual situation is that the runoff will be fast and furious and the International Falls dam outflow will not keep up with the inflow which will result in high water levels even without the rain. There was absolutely no attempt to pre-empt the disaster that is occurring now even though the probability of bad things happening were very high.

Assuming that ice out is usually the first of May, according to the rule curve, www.lwcb.ca/waterflowdata.html spring runoff starts after ice out and lasts 6-8 weeks – that is the entire months of May and June. This year we were in flood levels well before ice out and the official runoff season.

In conclusion, if we run into a flood for 1-2 days, that is a major woopsie. A flood for 1-2 weeks is a serious flaw in judgment and long and hard work should be done to determine how it will NEVER happen again. I feel that a flood for 1-2 months with seemingly no pre-emptive efforts shows complete incompetence. I feel the Stewards of the water levels should be replaced with people willing to take affirmative pre-emptive action well before it is too late. Even if the flood we are in cannot be prevented, it should and could have been reduced by at least six inches. That is critical for us lake property owners in this area.

The Stewards of the Rainy Lake watershed did a pretty good job in the 1960’s ‘70’s and ‘80’s. But since the flood of ‘96, I feel the Stewards have done an abhorrent job.

’96 flood levels

’97 minor low water

’98 extreme low water

2001 flood

2002 high flood

2003 extreme low water

2005 flood

2006 low water

2008 flood

2009 high water

2014 record flood

2021 low water

2022 extreme record breaking flood

I must admit during the record flood of 2014, I would have done exactly what the Stewards did. But every other high and low water event could and should have been mitigated.

Don Zucchiatti