Key Roles and Responsibilities for the Binational Management of Water Levels in the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed
Water Regulation and Control
- Dam Operators: The dams at International Falls-Fort Frances and Kettle Falls have controlled the outlets of Rainy and Namakan lakes for over 100 years. The day-to-day operations of the dams are directed by the owners, which are currently H2O Power in Canada, and Boise Paper in the United States. These dam operators seek to maintain water levels in the lakes within specific ranges, as defined by the International Joint Commission.
- International Joint Commission (IJC): an independent, objective and binational body established by Canada and the United States. The 1938 Rainy Lake Convention gave the IJC responsibilities with respect to the control of water levels under emergency conditions. Since 1949, the IJC has employed rule curves to regulate water levels, updating them to ensure that they reflect current science and stakeholder benefits. The rule curves were last updated in 2018, following the release of the Rainy and Namakan-Lakes Rule Curve review report of 2017.
- International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board: Formed by the IJC to assist with binational coordination of watershed management. Its members include federal, provincial, state, municipal and Indigenous representatives. Its activities are supported by an Industry Advisory Group, a Community Advisory Group, and four committees, including:
- Water Levels Committee: monitors hydrologic conditions and may provide dam operators with directions for the operation of their discharge facilities to ensure that the rule curves are followed. The Water Levels Committee regularly hosts public engagement activities to help share information on basin conditions and seasonal forecasts, and to solicit public input prior to making rule curve decisions.
- Adaptive Management Committee: was established in 2020 to monitor whether the latest rule curves perform as expected.
- Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board manages levels of the Lake of the Woods, between lower and upper elevations set by the Canada-U.S. 1925 Lake of the Woods Convention and Protocol. Staff engineers with the Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board are also members of the Water Levels Committee of the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board.
- International Lake of the Woods Control Board approves the actions of the Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board when the level of Lake of the Woods falls below or rises above prescribed extremes.
- Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District and Environment and Climate Change Canada serve as co-chairs of the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board, its Water Levels Committee, and the International Lake of the Woods Control Board.
Data Collection and Forecasting
- The Boards make decisions based on all available facts and the latest forecasts, and in direct communication with government agencies and other knowledge holders. Decisions are informed by, among other sources:
- Regular public engagement activities, including pre-spring webinars;
- Meteorological forecasts produced by the Meteorological Service of Canada, the U.S. National Weather Service, and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry;
- Hydrological measurements taken by the Water Survey of Canada and the U.S. Geological Survey; as well as
- Snow surveys produced by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul District.
- For the latest flood forecasts and guidance, please consult the following webpages:
- Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry Floods page
- U.S. National Weather Service Rainy River Basin page
- Other sources of information on water levels include the following:
- The International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board issues updates on water level decisions and data for the Rainy and Namakan lakes.
- The Canadian Lake of the Woods Control Board provides the latest information on water level and flow conditions in the basin on its Basin Data page. Level forecasts for Lake of the Woods, Lac Seul and the Winnipeg River in Ontario are issued Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on its Notice Board.
- Hydrometric data for the Canadian portion is also available on the Water Survey of Canada’s page.
- The U.S. Geological Survey National Water Dashboard (Waterwatch) provides real-time streamflow information for the United States portion.
- Water level information and forecasts for the United States portion are also provided by the U.S. National Weather Service.
- Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources provides monthly hydrologic conditions reports and water level information for its sub-basins.