Meetings to address high lake levels

Anyone with questions or concerns regarding the regulation of Rainy Lake and Namakan Lake, or the water quality on the Rainy River, is invited to the joint annual public meeting of the International Rainy Lake Board of Control and the International Rainy River Water Pollution Board on Thursday night.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at Rainy River Community College in International Falls, with a second meeting slated for Friday (July 22) at 10 a.m. at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Visitors Centre on Shaw Road in Stratton.
“I think the high water we’ve had this year has been the issue,” said Rick Cousins, an engineer with the Lake of the Woods Control Board and a member of the Canadian engineering support team with the IRLBC.
“We’re back to the normal range now, but it went quite a bit above the upper rule curve for a while,” he noted.
“The dams at the Fort Frances-International Falls border were open for over a month,” Cousins added. “And having to do that has an impact on property owners not only on the lake, but down the river.”
After presentations by the IRLBC and IRRWPB, there will be ample opportunity for public questions and comments, he stressed.
Cousins noted the boards are committed to holding a joint public meeting once a year, adding two or three commissioners with the International Joint Commission (IJC) also will be on hand.
Cousins said the main purpose of these meetings is for board members and commissioners to make themselves available to the public and give them a chance to meet face-to-face with the people who might have comments or questions, as opposed to simply getting feedback through their respective organizations.
The history of the IRLBC is as follows:
In 1938, the Rainy Lake Convention between the United States and Canada gave the IJC the power to determine when emergency conditions, whether by high or low water, exist in the Rainy Lake watershed.
It empowered the IJC to adopt such measures of control that it might deem proper with respect to the two existing dams at Kettle Falls and the dam at Fort Frances-International Falls.
In 1941, the IJC created the IRLBC to examine and report on the issue of emergency conditions. In 1949, after detailed study and recommendations by the board, the IJC issued an order prescribing the method of regulating boundary waters (Rainy and Namakan lakes).
The order established single rule curves for the water levels of Rainy and Namakan lakes, and also minimum outflows, in order to preclude (to the extent possible) the occurrence of emergency conditions.
This order later was amended by supplementary orders in October, 1957, July, 1970, and January, 2000.
In January, 2001, the original and the three supplementary orders were consolidated into one document, which was adopted by the IJC as the authoritative text of—and replacement for—the original order and its amendments.
The Consolidated Order of January, 2001, which currently is in place, specifies a water level band with upper and lower rule curves for each lake, minimum outflow requirements under normal low flow conditions, and a “drought line,” defining lake levels below which outflows are further reducible (at the discretion of the IRLBC) down to absolute minimums.
The discharge facilities at the Kettle Falls and International Falls-Fort Frances dams are to be operated by the companies that own them in such a manner that, insofar as possible, the levels of Rainy and Namakan lakes are maintained within the defined rule curve bands.
The IRLBC monitors hydrologic conditions and the companies’ actions, and may provide the companies with directions for the operation of their discharge facilities.
The companies are to carry out any instructions provided by the IRLBC, which may, from time to time, include instructions to target elsewhere in the bands.
If extremely high or low inflows are anticipated, the IRLBC—after obtaining the approval of the IJC—may authorize lake levels to be raised temporarily above the maximum or lowered temporarily below the minimum levels specified in the order.
The IRLBC consists of four members, with equal representation from Canada and the United States, and with one member from each country being a local resident (the local representative here is Fort Frances Fire Chief Steve Richardson).
As well as ensuring compliance with the IJC order, the board acts as a technical adviser to the IJC and keeps it advised of concerns, initiatives, and activities within the Rainy-Namakan basin.
It also, at the IJC’s direction, may conduct studies.
The board submits an annual report to the IJC each spring, and holds public meetings annually in the basin to review water management and to hear the concerns of local basin interests.
Since 2001, at the direction of the IJC, the IRLBC has worked closely, and held joint public meetings, with the IRRWPB, which is another IJC board active in the basin.
The IRRWPB, which was formed in 1966, is mandated to maintain supervision over the waters of the Rainy River in relation to pollution.
It also carries out inspections, evaluations, and assessments from time to time—as the board considers necessary or desirable—to determine whether the water quality objectives for the Rainy River are being met.