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.
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).
Since 1949 the IJC has employed rule curves, a type of water level regulation procedure, to regulate water levels in these lake systems. The Board and the WLC are responsible for ensuring these the established rule curves are followed by the dam operators, as far as natural conditions allow. These rule curves have been periodically reviewed by the IJC to ensure current science and stakeholder benefits are being properly considered.
On March 1, 2018 the IJC signed a supplementary order for Rainy and Namakan lakes that will result in broad ecological benefits while assisting in reducing flood peaks. It includes an alternative rule curve for Rainy Lake for high flood risk years that will help to reduce flood peaks, further operational guidance for the Water Levels Committee (WLC), continued and improved engagement with Métis, Tribes and First Nations and exploration of adaptive management.
As well the supplementary order gives the WLC, which monitors water levels operations, an expanded role, which includes determining high flood-risk years for Rainy Lake, requesting deviations from the Namakan Lake rule curve under certain circumstances, and targeting levels outside of the middle portion of the rule curves for each lake.
Formally known as the 2018 Supplementary Order of Approval in the Matter of Emergency Regulation of the Level of Rainy Lake and of other Boundary Waters, the supplementary order includes new rule curves (2018 rule curves) for regulating the levels of Rainy and Namakan lakes and other changes to the order issued by the IJC in 2000.
In the fall of 2018 the IJC issued an official compilation of the order to assist the Board, dam operators and the public to have a clear understanding of its content.
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.