MEDIA RELEASE December 19, 2002
The International Joint Commission (IJC) released today a report by its International Rainy Lake Board of Control on the 2002 high water levels in the Rainy/Namakan basin. The Board’s report addresses the second consecutive year of high water levels on Rainy and Namakan Lakes, assesses the impact of water management decisions, and makes recommendations to the IJC.
The IJC is considering the report and recommendations of its board, along with comments received regarding this year’s and last year’s floods, including at August 20 and October 28 public meetings.
"I am pleased to be engaged in familiar territory and look forward to working with the residents in carrying out our responsibilities in the Rainy-Namakan watershed" said Commissioner Allen Olson, who lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
The IJC strongly supports increased local involvement in water management decisions and will consider over the next few months how it may best accomplish this goal.
"The Commissioners believe that the people who live and work in the Rainy-Namakan basin need a stronger voice in the water management decisions that affect them. I look forward to seeing the right approach put into place," said the Rt. Hon. Herb Gray, Chair of the IJC’s Canadian Section.
The Board’s report states that high water levels were driven by extraordinarily heavy rainfall in June. Higher water levels have been recorded on both lakes in the past and will occur again. The June 9-10 rainfall was widespread and broke previous rainfall records in numerous locations, with some communities receiving more than half their average yearly rainfall in just two days. June flows into Rainy Lake were the 2 nd highest since 1912, and peak water levels on Rainy Lake were the highest since 1950 and the 2 nd highest since 1912. June flows into Namakan Lake were near average, and peak water levels on Namakan Lake levels were the 24 th highest since 1913. Water levels and flows in the Rainy River were extremely high and broke records.
The Board’s report specifies that reducing Rainy Lake outflows while the Town of Rainy River built a flood protection dike raised the peak water level on Rainy Lake by approximately 5 centimetres (2 inches). Holding back water on Namakan Lake to ease flood concerns on Rainy Lake lowered Rainy lake levels by approximately 5 centimetres (2 inches) and raised Namakan Lake levels by approximately 24 centimetres (9.4 inches). The effect of the IJC adopting new rule curves in 2000 raised the peak level of Rainy Lake by approximately 9-20 centimetres (3.5-8 inches), depending upon certain assumptions on how the Board would have operated the dams under the previous rules. The report attributes much of this amount to flow management during the drought that preceded the June heavy rainfall. The report also assesses how much the peak level of Rainy Lake would have been reduced without the drought (4-8 centimetres, or 1.5-3 inches) and under operations typical of the 1990s (2.5 centimetres, or 1 inch). The report states that the overall impact of the 2000 rule curves was generally within the range predicted during studies leading to their adoption. The scenarios presented in the report supersede the preliminary information presented by the Board at its August 20 public meeting, where it indicated that the probable effect of the IJC adopting new rule curves likely raised the level of Rainy Lake by 2.5-5 centimetres (1-2 inches.)
The Board’s report recommends to the IJC that further review of the new rule curves adopted in 2000 is not warranted at this time, but the IJC should continue with plans for a review in 2015, with an earlier review if required. The Board’s report also recommends that more effort be made to raise public awareness of possible water levels, flood hazards, and appropriate use of flood hazard lands; and that communication with the public be improved and potential means of increased public involvement regarding water level and flow regulation be explored. The Board’s full report is available at local libraries, upon request, and at the board’s website, http://www.ijc.org/conseil_board/rainy_lake/rl_pub.php?language=english ,or through the IJC web site, www.ijc.org . The Board’s report on the 2001 flood is also available at these sites.
After two years of flooding, and recognizing that floods will inevitably occur again, the IJC is taking steps to supplement local flood information, including mapping of recent and historic floods and assessing flood simulation models and tools. The IJC anticipates that this additional technical information will be available by spring. The IJC has also urged Boise Cascade Corporation to complete upgrades to its powerhouse by spring, as scheduled, to minimize outflow reduction and powerhouse safety concerns during future floods .
The International Joint Commission regulates the levels of Rainy and Namakan Lakes under the 1938 Rainy Lake Convention between Canada and the United States. For more information, visit our website at www.ijc.org.
Lisa Bourget, Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9021
Fabien Lengellé, Ottawa, ON (613) 995-0088