Emo dropping intake for water supply

Emo looked to start work this week on a plan to drop its intake two feet in hopes of ensuring a water supply for the 1,165 residents there.
With Rainy River only 39 inches deep there, and winter fast approaching, any freeze might jeopardize that water supply and leave council there scrambling for another solution.
“We’re going to try and keep it one foot from the [river] bottom,” noted Keith Paterson, operator of Emo’s water control plant.
While it’s recommended the intake be at least three feet from the bottom, a look at the river bottom last week revealed it was gravelly and scoured off, with not a lot of debris.
“That’s a really good thing,” said Keith McLaughlin, an environmental officer with the Ministry of Environment office in Kenora, but added the drop will require daily adjustments at the water treatment plant.
The municipality plans to connect this new line to its present one–“T” to it, Paterson noted. A hydraulic engineer will advise on the project to ensure correct installation onto the “gravity feed” line.
“Hopefully, this will do it,” Paterson added.
Reeve Brian Reid, Coun. James O’Sullivan, Clerk Brenda Cooke, sewer and water manager Bob Sletmoen, Public Works superintendent Dan Wilson, Paterson, and community member George Wegman met with Ministry of Environment reps in Emo last Wednesday to brainstorm for the best solution to the town’s water woes.
That came after the municipality was told any solution would have to be found locally. Rick Walden, engineering advisor with the International Rainy Lake Board of Control, stressed the outflow from Rainy Lake–which normally is 103 cubic metres per second–couldn’t be increased from the 75 cubic metres per second it is now.
“We could release more water, yes, but that isn’t deemed to be the best approach to take. If we increase the outflow, then that’s going to make the lake go down faster,” he said Monday, adding with the lake so low, that would lead to problems later in the season.
“We had been down to 70 [cubic metres per second],” Walden said, noting they never reached the 63 cubic metres per second the International Joint Commission had sought when it issued a supplementary order in August.
To make matters worse, water flowing into the lake is the lowest it’s been in 88 years. In fact, the net inflow into Rainy Lake is slightly negative due to the rate of evaporation (median inflow at this time is 190 cubic metres per second).
Dropping another line further down at Emo was the quickest and most inexpensive solution. The municipality is applying for senior government assistance but for now it is footing the bill.
“I guess our biggest concern is we can’t get caught up in a bunch of approvals and permits,” Reeve Reid noted Thursday.
But McLaughlin, who attended last week’s meeting in Emo with supervisor John Barr, assured the ministry was going to do what it could to speed things along.
“There is an approval process that they do have to go through. The challenge here is to get that done as quick as possible,” McLaughlin admitted.
“My concern with the whole thing is freezing,” he added.
Rainy River didn’t freeze during last year’s mild winter but Walden said the chance of getting one to two feet of ice varied, depending on the rate the water was flowing and the severity of the winter.
If the river does freeze, other options Emo may consider include converting to a well system like in Barwick, where the 150 residences, as well as the Voyageur Panel OSB mill, tie into the water treatment plant, which is fed by six wells.
Walden pointed out the water system could recover, especially if we get a wet fall. But he noted it would take rainfall that was well above normal.
“There is still time for that to happen before freeze up,” he added.