IJC considers public comments from Rainy-Namakan basin


At its executive meeting on December 4-5, 2001, the International Joint Commission (IJC) considered the comments presented at its public meeting held November 28 in International Falls, Minnesota, as well as other comments presented by basin residents.

High water conditions

Public comment was invited on the high water levels experienced in the Rainy-Namakan basin in 2001. Analysis of this topic was presented in a report, dated October 26, 2001, by the International Rainy Lake Board of Control. Most people who offered comment on the high water levels in the Rainy-Namakan basin seemed to accept the Board of Control’s finding that this year’s levels were generally due to very heavy and persistent precipitation from the beginning of April to the end of July. The IJC is taking steps to address each of the recommendations in the report of its Board of Control. While high water events of this magnitude are infrequent, the IJC also urges basin residents to consider the need to plan for similar, and more severe events in the future.

Combination of IJC boards

The IJC also invited public comment on its proposal to combine its International Rainy Lake Board of Control and International Rainy River Pollution Board. The IJC believes that a combined board could help it take a more integrated approach to its responsibilities in the basin, including the need to more fully consider potential impacts of water levels and flows on all the interests in the basin, the need to marshall the data that will eventually be needed to assess the new rule curves, including whether they are beneficial to fish and wildlife, and the need to more readily identify and assess issues that arise, such as the impacts of flows in the Rainy River during periods of drought or ice jams.

Most people who offered comment at the public meeting on the IJC’s proposal to combine its boards were not supportive of the proposal. Questions were raised about a number of issues, including the need for a combined board and whether it would focus less than the current control board on preventing emergency high and low water conditions. Recognizing the need for public support, the IJC decided to defer action on combining its boards.

The IJC wishes to reaffirm that its Orders for regulating water levels in the Rainy-Namakan basin have always required that the impacts on a broad range of interests be taken into account. The IJC will continue to examine how to address the range of considerations related to its responsibilities in the basin in order to achieve a more integrated approach. Toward this end, the IJC is taking the following actions:


  • Increasing consultation with and among basin residents, including a visit to the basin by Commissioners in 2002;
  • Directing its boards to hold joint annual public meetings;
  • Directing its boards to hold at least one joint board meeting and one joint conference call annually to exchange information;
  • Directing its control board to consult with its pollution board prior to directing the companies to target other than the middle portion of the rule curve to determine, among other things, potential downstream impacts on the Rainy River;
  • Directing its control board to issue a media release, also posted to the board’s web site announcing any decisions to target other than the middle portion of the rule curve;
  • Directing its pollution board to consider how the quantity and quality of upstream water supplies impact Rainy River water quality and alert the control board to issues potentially connected to water levels and flows;
  • Directing its boards to jointly examine the other issues raised during the public hearing related to use of water in Rainy River and Rainy Lake, including peaking operations, and report to the Commission by September 2002.
  • Directing its pollution board, jointly with the control board, to help the IJC coordinate and integrate the collection of environmental data needed to review the IJC’s Orders.

The International Joint Commission regulates the levels of Rainy and Namakan Lakes under the 1938 Rainy Lake Convention between the Governments of Canada and the United States. The IJC also monitors water quality in the Rainy River, including compliance with water quality objectives approved by the governments. For more information, visit our website at www.ijc.org .



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