Rule curve amendment faces opposition

The International Rainy Lake Board of Control will face some opposition when it makes its rule curve recommendations for Namakan and Rainy Lakes at a meeting here tonight with the International Joint Commission.
The meeting gets underway at La Place Rendez-Vous at 7 p.m.
Foremost among the IRLBC’s opposition will be members of an international steering committee which did a five-year study on the two lakes concerning possible rule curve changes.
The IRLBC basically accepted the steering committee’s idea to keep more water in Namakan during the winter, making for higher water levels during the spring.
But Paul Radomski, U.S. co-chair for the committee and a member of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said the IRLBC widened the proposed rule bands on Namakan, allowing the recommended minimum level for the lake to drop.
“That would lead to water levels that would be three feet too low for northern pike spawning,” Radomski charged.
“Another concern we had, and this was the resort community, was a quarter of the docks would not be usable by the opening of fishing season,” he added.
But the steering committee’s biggest concern seems to centre on the IRLBC’s recommendation to keep the rule curves basically the same for Rainy Lake.
The steering committee had proposed a slow draw down in the summer for Rainy Lake–something Radomski said “every lake in the area” has.
“That’s a natural phenomenon,” he remarked. “That phenomenon cleans spawning shoals.
“Sticking with the existing rule curve, we’ve found that to be detrimental to fish and wildlife,” he argued. “We’d like a modest summer draw down.”
Radomski said he didn’t know if steering committee members bought the IRLBC’s argument that a summer draw down would mean major fluctuations downstream on the Winnipeg River.
He believed dam operators on Lake of the Woods would be able to “adapt” to the new system, especially when you consider the level of the lake would rise only a couple of inches from the extra water upstream.
Radomski said it’s likely each one of the steering committee members will make a presentation at tonight’s public hearing, each touching on different points that jumped out at them from the IRLBC’s recommendations.
“Our recommendations haven’t changed,” he stressed. “We’re still concerned about navigation, we’re still concerned about dock access, and we’re still concerned about fish and wildlife.”
Then there’s the question of what a change in rule curves will mean to Rainy River. Jennifer Mercer, ecological watch co-ordinator at Rainy River First Nation, said one concern she has is the amount of control the IRLBC will give to dam operators.
For instance, the recommendation to reduce the minimum outflow from Rainy Lake dam to 65 cu. m per second once the water reaches a certain level.
“Last year, when we had the drought, they had to go through the whole song and dance and go to the public [to get it approved],” she said.
“What the board of control recommends takes away public consultation,” she charged.
But Mercer’s major concern is daily fluctuations that will occur on the river if the rule curves are changed–something she said has been overlooked entirely.
“We don’t know how the new proposal will affect the river,” she warned. “There’s too many unanswered questions on the river for us to take a stance.”