International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board

Water Levels FAQs

Table of Contents

1. International Joint Commission (IJC)

a. What is the IJC?

b. How does the IJC engage the public?

2. International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Board (IRLWWB)

a. What is the IRLWWB? (suggest omitting)

b. Who is on the IRLWWB?

c. How are the members of the IRLWWB appointed?

d. Does the IRLWWB take formal votes on its decisions?

e. What is done to ensure the public has input into the IRLWWB decisions?

f. Are records of the IRLWWB decisions accessible to the public?

g. Who makes the decisions and has the authority for governance in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods    

h. What is the role of the International Watershed Coordinator?

3. Aquatic Ecosystem Health Committee

a. Where may I find the annual reports on water quality and aquatic ecosystem health?

b. What are the principal provisions of the Boundary Waters Treaty regarding water quality?

c. Water Quality Data
    i. How is water quality data collected?

e. Climate Change
    i. How is climate change affecting the basin?

f. Algal blooms and Algal toxins
   i. What causes algal blooms?
   ii. Are algal blooms increasing in the Rainy – Lake of the Woods basin?
   iii. Are all algal blooms harmful?

g. Nutrients and internal loading
     i. What are “nutrients” and which are of concern in the Rainy – LoW Basin?
     ii. What is a phosphorous budget?
    iii. What are TMDLs and TP?
    iv. What are the sources of phosphorous for the Rainy – LoW Basin, and how does it get released from the system?
     v. What are we still working to understand?
    vi. What contaminants threats exist in the basin?
   vii.  How does mining pose a contaminants risk to the basin?
   viii. How is mercury a contaminant of concern for the basin?
     ix. What about other contaminants like PCBs, pesticides, endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals?

h. Water Levels and Erosion

    i. What are some concerns related to controlling water levels?
    ii. Where and how is erosion a problem?

i. Aquatic Invasive Species

   i. What are some aquatic invasive species of concern?
   ii. How can I help limit the spread of aquatic invasive species?

4. Water Levels Committee (WLC)

a. What does the WLC do?

b. Who are the members of the Water Levels Committee (WLC)?

c. How does the WLC increase public awareness of hydrologic conditions?

d. Boundary Waters Treaty and Water Regulation

    i. What is the history of the Water Regulation Mandate
    ii. What are the principal provisions of the Boundary Waters Treaty regarding projects such as bridges?
    iii. What are the Orders of Approval?
    iv. Are there Orders of Approval For Rainy and Namakan Lake?
    v. What is the Status of the Current Rule Curves?
    vi. What are the principal provisions of the current Order?

e. Water Levels and Water Flows in the Boundary Waters

           i. Who actually operates the dam at Fort Frances, Ontario and International Falls, Minnesota?
           ii. How does the day to day management of the dams take place?
           iii. What is the interaction between the companies and the WLC?
           iv. Who makes the decisions on changing flow?
           v. How can I understand the flow of water in the basin?
           vi. On average. How much water comes into Rainy Lake from Namakan Lake? From other sources?
           vii. Where does the water come from which enters the Namakan Chain of Lakes?
           viii. What resources are there to better understand the outflows from Rainy River and Rainy Lake and how the flow is managed?
           ix. What data and forecasts are used to make decisions?
           x. How has dam regulation affected Rainy Lake and the Namakan Chain of Lakes?

f. High Water Issues

   i. If there are dams controlling flows out of both lakes, why does high water still occur?
   ii. Why aren’t more gates opened sooner when water levels are rising on Rainy Lake?
   iii. Since the outlets of Namakan Lake and Rainy Lake can’t pass enough outflow at lower lake elevations to avoid high water in a wet spring, doesn’t it make sense to enlarge them so this isn’t a problem?
   iv. When winter snowfalls are deep and melt late, why aren’t the dams opened early on to make room in the lakes for all of the water that is coming?
   v. Doesn’t knowing the snow pack provide a reliable indicator of the water supplies for the spring and summer season?
   vi. Are there people or organizations that could provide better forecasts?
   vii. There are a number of dams beside those at the outlet of Namakan Lake that can help control the flow entering Rainy Lake. Did the IJC look at reducing flow out of other control structures and dams during the high water
        period? If not, why not?
   viii. Since the 2000 Rule Curves came into effect, there have been many high water years on Rainy Lake. Why is this?
     ix. There have been more high inflow years in the last 15 years than previously. Is this due to climate change? If so, what can be done to prevent high water events in the future?
      x. How did Rainy Lake outflow affect high water on the Rainy River and its tributaries in 2014?
      xi. Why are the turbines in the powerhouses at the Rainy Lake dam designed so that they can’t operate at full capacity under extremely high water conditions such as the summer of 2014? Can’t they be fixed?
      xii. The flooding of the Boise turbine room was a problem back in 2001. What was the problem in 2014?
      xii. Water went over the spillway at the Fort Frances—International Falls dam in the summer of 2014 for the first time since 1950. Is this dangerous or damaging to the dam?

g. Low Water Issues

           i. What protections are in place when inflows are lower than average?

h. Isostatic Rebound

    i. What influence does isostatic rebound have on what is happening to water levels and water access around the shoreline of the lakes?

5. International Watershed Initiative Projects

 a. What are International Watershed Initiative (IWI) projects?

6. Advisory Groups of the IRLWWB 

a. Who are the members of the Community Advisory Group (CAG)?

b. What is the charge to the Community Advisory Group?

c. Who are the members of the Industry Advisory Group (IAG)?

d. What do the IAG and CAG do?

e. So how can I become a member of the CAG or IAG?