Impact of flooding lingers on

More than two weeks after torrential rains hit the district, the impact is still being felt.
Couchiching First Nation ordered 6,000 sandbags from the Ministry of Transportation to deal with rising levels on Rainy Lake.
Several homes there are in danger of flooding, with summer students having been enlisted to help with sandbagging.
Unlike municipalities in the district, which has been declared a disaster area by Municipal Affairs and Housing minister Chris Hodgson, First Nation communities aren’t covered by the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
“Indian Affairs is wrestling with that now,” said Couchiching Chief Chuck McPherson.
Chief McPherson was worried about houses in low-lying areas on the reserve. Many of them were getting bombarded with water from two sides—from both Rainy Lake and old creeks.
“I’ve never seen it this high,” the lifelong resident said of the lake level, adding it takes a few days after a rain to see the full effects at Couchiching.
“I’d guess it’s 20 feet higher than normal,” Chief McPherson said.
Meanwhile, employees at Northern Wilderness Outfitters east of the Noden Causeway have been arriving for work at 4 a.m. for almost two weeks to dig trenches around the lakeside business.
Their out-buildings are in 30 inches of water and the offices have flooded twice. Water-filled barrels are holding down the docks.
On Monday, owner Vic Davis Sr. took a break from dealing with his insurance company to assess the damage. He was optimistic, though visibly tired.
“We’re doing all right,” he said. “It just makes it harder for us to load and unload. We’re not turning anyone back.”
Davis argued the gates in the dam at Fort Frances should have been opened earlier, and that the rule curve should have been better researched before it was revised two years ago.
“If the wind comes from the west, we’re done for,” he warned. “Is this a man-made flood or Mother Nature?”
Long-time resident Ray Gustafson remembers the flood of 1950.
“I remember tying my boat to a fire hydrant on Front Street,” he recalled. He also believes the logging industry and lack of research on rule curve levels are to blame.
“There’s vegetation floating down Turtle River, Namakan, and Manitou,” he said. “Turtle River bridge looks like a dam.”
The first rule curves were introduced by the International Joint Commission in 1949 after research and public hearings. The serious floods which occurred in 1950 and 1954 led to a re-evaluation and modification of the rule curves in 1957.
The rule curves were modified again in 1970 due to high and low water events on Rainy and Namakan lakes from 1957-68.
The latest revisions to the rule curves came Jan. 6, 2000.
The IJC establishes minimum and maximum discharge requirements in order to avoid “emergency conditions” as much as possible.
Emergency conditions are defined to exist when the levels of Rainy and Namakan lakes are higher than 337.75 m (1,108.1 feet) and 340.95 m (1,118.6 feet), respectively.
Rainy Lake was at 338.51 m (1,110.60 feet) at last report Tuesday afternoon.
The 2000 revision to the rule curves allowed for a slightly wider band during the spring refill period and a modest draw down in the late summer and fall.
This was contrary to a request from the international steering committee that did a five-year study on the water levels on the two lakes.
Meanwhile, water levels are starting to go down elsewhere in the district but things are far from normal.
“The road is still flooded in places,” James Henderson, programming director for Stanjikoming First Nation, said yesterday. “We’ve been using the road for four or five days. You can just make it through, you just take your time.
“There are washouts on the side where they still haven’t been able to make it through,” he noted. “It’s only been the last day or so [we could travel] because the water went down.”
And high bacteria levels prompted the Northwestern Health Unit on Friday to post both the Barwick public dock and Hannam Park in Rainy River as “unsafe for swimming.”
The high bacterial counts were found during routine sampling, with both to remain closed to swimmers until satisfactory results are obtained.