After spring floodwaters hit the Rainy River-Lake of the Woods basin, IJC Commissioner Lance Yohe visited the area with staff and members of the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board’s Water Levels Committee.
The group met June 8-10 with those affected by flooding across the region, starting in the Lake of the Woods basin. There, they were accompanied by members of the Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board and met with officials from Sioux Narrows and the Morson Marina before meeting with members of the Big Grassy River First Nation. They went on to meet people in Rainy River, Wheelers Point, Rocky Point and Warroad before stopping for the night.
The next day, Yohe and committee members headed east along the Rainy River to International Falls, Minnesota, and Fort Frances, Ontario, meeting with a resort owner in the Northwest Angle of Minnesota on the way alongside members of the International Lake of the Woods Control Board, which activates when water levels are above or below specific thresholds.
The group first met with the Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation, on the North shore of Rainy Lake, then met with Couchiching First Nation, where they observed sandbagging and flooded homes. Finally, they concluded the day by meeting with Fort Frances Mayor June Caul and other local officials.
On June 10, the group continued eastward toward Rainy Lake and Kabetogama Lake. Starting with a meeting with the Koochiching County Emergency Operations Center at the International Falls Police Station, the group toured inundated areas along the shores of the Rainy Lake, and met with Randy Pozniak of the Border Lakes Association followed by a media availability session with Fort Frances and International Falls reporters. The group also met with owners of the Thunderbird Lodge, Snyder’s Idlewild Resort and the Rainy Lake House Boats about how the flooding had affected them.
In all of these meetings, Yohe and committee members were able to discuss the extreme precipitation during a wet and cold April and May that caused the historic flooding, and offer their thoughts on resiliency, rebuilding and when waters would recede. In turn, they were grateful to hear from those most impacted by the high-water levels and appreciated the time people took to share their perspectives, knowledge and experiences.
Yohe and others said they were impressed by the kindness, patience and strength shown by residents, especially during challenging and stressful circumstances.
Kevin Bunch is a writer-communications specialist at the IJC’s US Section office in Washington, D.C.