Property owners watching lake levels with interest

The Rainy Lake property owners’ association (RLPOA) met Thursday June 6th at La Place Rendez-Vous Hotel to present and discus the ongoing issues with the water levels of Rainy Lake.

“That lake goes up out there, it affects the Canadians, it affects the Americans,” said Lanny Cyr, board director.

Property owners from both sides of Rainy Lake came together at an event hosted by the RLPOA to talk about the changing levels of Rainy Lake. The association made a presentation to inform those present of the consequences of water level changes caused by the opening and closing of dams around the lake. They said that dams would sometimes not open fast enough and that the rising waters created problems for their properties.

“After the change in 2000, we saw all of these what I call nuisance high water,” said Tom Dougherty, vice president. “The water might come up on your dock, you might have to pull your boat because your lift isn’t set up just right for it.”

In an emailed response from the International Joint Commission, the IJC said that water levels are regulated by a band with an upper and lower-level rule curve for both Rainy Lake and Namakan Lakes. Companies that operate facilities on the lakes must operate in such a manner to achieve the targets provided by the Water Level Committee.

“In order for lake levels to return to their rule curves, outflow increases are required to balance the increased inflow to the lakes,” said the IJC.

The IJC said that the dams must release more water when there are large amounts of precipitation because there is more water than the dams can handle in a short period of time. This causes the lake levels to rise as the dams fall short of keeping up with the rise in water levels.

“Precipitation forecasts are only reliable in the short term, making it impossible to anticipate how the inflow, and level of the lakes, will naturally change any farther out than a few days,” said the IJC.

Cyr said that sudden changes in water levels creates a problem for many property owners around Rainy Lake as rising water can cause damage to property and equipment.

“The bottleneck at Rainier can't get it through there quick enough,” said Cyr. “Not looking to flood Lake of the Woods but they got a larger lake there and more room.”

The IJC explained that changes in water level targets are posted on their website at https://www.ijc.org/en/rlwwb/watershed/data and that First Light Power issues notices on its website regarding conditions and operational changes at both Rainy Lake and Namakan Lakes. They can be found at https://www.h2opower.com/water-management/waterlevels/.

“The rule curves established by the International Joint Commission were developed to take into account a balance of all of the various interests on Rainy and Namakan Lakes,” said the IJC.

Georgia Growette, founding member of the RLPOA, said that proposed changes to the CN rail bridge had been on their radar for the last two years. She is concerned that the flow of water may be impeded if more piers or larger piers were installed at the entrance of the Rainy River.

In their email, the IJC said that they were aware of the proposal by CN to conduct upgrades to their bridge but that the project was still in the permitting and approval process.

Louis Bergeron, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times