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Public Meeting
IJC Activities in Rainy-Namakan Basin

Wednesday, November 28, 2001
7:00 p.m.
Holiday Inn, International Falls
1500, Highway 71

The International Joint Commission (IJC) will hold a public meeting in International Falls, Minnesota, to hear from residents of the Rainy-Namakan Basin on two topics:

  • The 2001 high water situation, and
  • proposed amalgamation of the IJC's International Rainy Lake Board of Control and International Rainy River Pollution Board.

After high water levels this spring in the Rainy-Namakan basin raised numerous concerns, the IJC asked its International Rainy Lake Board of Control to investigate and report on the situation. The final report of the Board , dated October 26, 2001, provides detailed information on the 2001 high water situation, assesses actions taken and their impacts, and makes recommendations for the Commission's consideration. Copies of the Board's final report can be downloaded from the IJC's website or obtained at either contact below. In considering this year's high water situation, the IJC also wishes to hear first-hand from residents of the basin.

The Board's report concludes that precipitation received in the basin from April through July, the greatest since 1948, was primarily responsible for the high water levels on Rainy and Namakan Lakes. Higher water levels have been recorded on both lakes in the past (eight times on Namakan Lake since 1912 and six times on Rainy Lake since 1911) and will occur again. The effect of the IJC adopting new rule curves in 2000, and of the Board directing the hydropower companies in February to target higher levels on Namakan Lake, had minimal impact on peak lake levels: at most about 2.5 cm (1 inch) on Namakan Lake and about 8 cm (3 inches) on Rainy Lake. The effect of the targeting alone on peak levels was negligible on Namakan Lake and about 2.5 cm (1 inch) on Rainy Lake. The effect of Boise Cascade Corporation shutting down its powerhouse for about a week in late May because of safety concerns raised the peak level of Rainy Lake by about 6.4 cm (2.5 inches), but this effect was more than compensated by earlier refurbishment of the turbines. The report concluded that hydropower companies' actions during the May-June flood peak were appropriate and consistent with the IJC Order, and that the Board's February decisions to target higher levels on Namakan Lake were appropriate given conditions and expectations at that time. The report recommends that Boise Cascade Corporation proceed with its own plans to address the concerns leading to the May powerhouse shutdown; that the IJC encourage resource management agencies to collect environmental data that will be needed to review its Order; that the potential for the Upper Namakan Chain of Lakes to experience more frequent high water events should be evaluated; and that the IJC and Board should promote awareness of expected future high water levels, the limited ability to reduce them, and the need to prepare for them.

The IJC has proposed amalgamating its International Rainy Lake Board of Control and International Rainy River Pollution Board in order to take a more integrated approach to its water quantity and water quality responsibilities. A draft directive , released in September, may be downloaded from the IJC's website or obtained at either contact below. In response to requests for a face-to-face meeting, the IJC is coming to the basin to discuss the proposed board amalgamation.

After considering all available information, including that provided during the public meeting, the IJC will determine what next steps may be appropriate in response to the flood report and for the proposed amalgamation of its boards.

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 .

Contacts:
Frank Bevacqua, Washington, D.C. (202) 736-9024
Fabien Lengellé, Ottawa, ON (613) 995-0088

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