International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board

Mandate

August 2015 Board Public MeetingOverview

The International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board was formed by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in 2013 by the merger of the former International Rainy River Water Pollution Board and the International Rainy Lake Board of Control. The Board’s mandate is to ensure compliance with the Commission’s Order pursuant to the Rainy Lake Convention, to monitor and report on the ecological health of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake boundary waters aquatic ecosystem, including water quality, and to assist the Commission in preventing and resolving disputes regarding the boundary waters of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River watershed. 

The Board works to accomplish its mandate by exploring and encouraging the development of local and regional capacity to prevent and solve problems locally, applying the best available science and knowledge, and maintaining an awareness of the needs, expectations and capabilities of residents of the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River watershed. 

Public Involvement

To provide advice and insight to the Board on issues related to its mandate, the Board has both a Community Advisory Group (CAG) and Industry Advisory Group (IAG).  For information about membership in the CAG or IAG please contact us.

The Board is also required to hold at least one public meeting a year, in the basin.

Water Regulation Mandate

The 1938 Rainy Lake Convention between the United States and Canada gave the International Joint Commission (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 International Falls-Fort Frances along the border between Minnesota and Ontario. These dams are currently owned and operated by two companies, Boise Paper in the United States and H20 Power Limited Partnership (formerly ACH Limited Partnership: and AbitibiBowater) in Canada (the Companies).

In 1941 the IJC created the International Rainy Lake Board of Control (IRLBC) to examine and report on the issue of emergency conditions. On June 8, 1949, after detailed study and recommendations by the Board, the Commission 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. The 1949 Order was later 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 Commission as the authoritative text of, and replacement for, the original order and its amendments.

As of April 1st, 2013 water regulation is delegated to the Rainy and Namakan Lake Water Levels Control Committee (Levels Committee) which has exactly the same composition as the former International Rainy Lake Board of Control and authority to act independently. 

Some Board members before an August 2015 meetingThe Consolidated Order of January 2001, which is currently 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 Levels Committee, down to absolute minimums.

The discharge facilities at the Kettle Falls and International Falls-Fort Frances dams are to be operated by the Companies in such a manner that, insofar as possible, the levels of Namakan and Rainy lakes are maintained within the defined rule curve bands. Further, the Companies are to normally target the middle portion of these bands and to keep the Levels Committee informed at all times of their intended actions. The Water Levels Committee is to monitor 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 Levels Committee, which may from time to time include instructions to target elsewhere in the bands.

Notwithstanding the above, if extremely high or low inflows are anticipated, the Levels Committee, after obtaining the approval of the Commission, may authorize lake levels to be raised temporarily above the maximum or lowered temporarily below the minimum levels specified in the Order.