Rainy Lake friends ... there have been several briefings over the last two days from the Lake of Woods Control Board (Canada) and from NOAA National Weather Service (US). The current NOAA/NWS forecast (https://www.weather.gov/dlh/RainyRiverBasin) is for levels on Namakan and Rainy to rise 8 to 13 inches between May 10th and 20th.
Additional key points from NOAA/NWS are summarized below:
"NWS Duluth has issued a Flood Warning as flooding is occurring and expected to continue. Conditions will worsen on Namakan and Rainy Lake in the coming days - perhaps continuing to get worse on Rainy Lake into late May before reaching a peak. This Flood Warning will be updated periodically to incorporate the latest information."
"Rainfall on the order of around 1-1.5" (25-40mm) is expected within the Rainy River Basin between today and Friday due to showers and thunderstorms. Due to the nature of thunderstorms, precipitation will not be uniform across the basin - some spots could see less than a half-inch while others could see over two inches - but the broad average is expected to be around 1-1.5" total. Temperatures will also be well above normal, helping to melt the remaining ice on the lakes and snow cover on land."
"After this late-week precipitation, there are only a few low chances for light precipitation amounts Sat 5/14 through Wed 5/18. Beyond this point, the pattern looks to be active again with numerous chances for showers and storms in late May, which could cause additional rises on the impacted rivers and lakes."
"Bottom Line: Areas that have been negatively affected by past high-water events on these lakes should make preparations for high water levels returning. On Namakan the worst (peak) of the lake level may be reached mid to late next week (May 17-20). On Rainy Lake, the worst (peak) lake levels may not occur until late May (May 20-25 or later). Please take these dates as a general estimate - this is an extremely complex forecast, and this is our best guess based on experts from both sides of the border. Additional rainfall could cause the worst/peak levels to happen earlier or later or could cause multiple peaks/crests as the rivers and lakes respond to any rainfall."
National Weather Service Duluth MN
337 PM CDT Fri May 6 2022
...EXPECT A PROLONGED PERIOD OF HIGH WATER AND FLOODING WITHIN THE
RAINY LAKE BASIN...
Spring snowmelt plus well above normal April precipitation has
created a strong hydrologic response within the Rainy Lake basin.
Many tributaries to Rainy Lake and the Rainy River are at their
crest after weekend rains. Lake rises within the Rainy Lake Basin
are ongoing and are expected to continue for at least the next week
to ten days. Snowpack still exists in the basin, and with warmer
temperatures and rainfall in the forecast expect increasing water
At 2:15 PM, Friday, May 6th the Namakan Lake level was 1117.93
feet. In 2014 the highest lake level was 1120 feet. A record level
was set on Lake Namakan in 1950 when it reached 1122.70 feet.
Maximum releases from dams on Namakan Lake and Rainy Lake are
planned in an effort to slow surging lake rises. This will cause an
increase in the level on the Rainy River. Expect high water levels
within the Rainy Lake system for the next several weeks.
For more details about this ongoing situation find our news
headlines at www.weather.gov/dlh
Rainy Lake friends, inflows to the lake are continuing to rise, approaching 1,200 cubic meters per second. Inflows exceed outflows by about 300-400 cubic meters per second which translates to 1 - 1.2 inch rise per day. Given the hydraulic limitations of upper Rainy River and dam, lake outflows can not match current inflows until lake levels reach about foot above the all gates open level. Below I've charted historical data showing the current situation. At this point it may be prudent to prepare for high water in coming weeks.
I'm aware the professionals at the IJC and local advisory groups are monitoring this closely, and they have access to the latest data. We should be watching for any advice that may be forthcoming from those groups
On Monday the second of May at 9 am Sherriff Perryn Hedlund hosted a meeting between Law Enforcement planners and representatives from the Rainy Lake Property Owners Association at the Koochiching County Law Enforcement center to discuss planning for a possible high-water event on Rainy Lake in the upcoming weeks. People in attendance from Law Enforcement were Sherriff Hedlund, Chief Deputy Jon Froemke, and Emergency management coordinator Willi Kostiuk. Representing the Rainy Lake Property Association was Chairman Dan Vellieux, vice chair Eric Johnson, and board member Tom Dougherty.
The group met to discuss the likelihood, start planning for, and coordinate efforts for a high-water event that could possibly impact properties on Rainy Lake and throughout the Rainy River Watershed during the upcoming weeks. Deep snowpack that contributed to significant spring runoff and much rainfall throughout the watershed over the last week has led to high spring water levels on the Rainy Lake and Namakan Basins.
In preparation for a high-water event, sand bagging material needs, and staging areas were identified and will be secured in the upcoming days. Volunteer coordination, material and equipment, ongoing communication, and equipment resources to help properties, including island properties, impacted by possible flooding were other items that were discussed. Properties at the greatest risk of impact will be identified and the overall impact to properties on Rainy Lake and Ranier will be a high priority.
The group will continue to meet on a weekly basis and give weekly updates to membership and the general public. Sherriff Hedlund finished the meeting by saying, “What we want to do is have all of the planning in place in the event of flooding like we’ve seen in the past, hopefully it doesn’t happen but if it does, we will be prepared.”
On behalf of the Members Board of the Rainy Lake Property Owners Association (RLPOA), we would like to provide an update regarding the water level on Rainy Lake and how we might prepare ourselves for the higher-than-normal water levels we will experience in the coming weeks.
In early March, RLPOA Board Members, along with other stakeholders, participated in a pre-Spring webinar with the Water Levels Committee of the St. Paul District of the US Army Corp of Engineers that oversees our area; we offered the following cautionary comments to the committee:
1. Temperatures are expected to remain well below freezing at night during the extended forecast. This may potentially push the ice-out date into mid-May creating the potential for freshet and spring rains to enter the basin at the same time.
2. It is reported the lake has as much as 32 inches of ice at this time.
3. Area forestry experts have indicated that higher than normal precipitation rates follow a drought year.
4. Basin-wide combination of rain and heavy wet snow (according to the National Weather Service totaling over 6 in of water) in early
November has been held up in the bush and will enter the watershed this spring.
Since these remarks were presented a month ago, conditions have not improved and the RLPOA remains cautious. Rainfall has been significant, including the nearly 4” of rainfall that we all witnessed last weekend. Accordingly, Rainy Lake water levels have risen over 13” over the last month and are now outside (above) the rule curve.
With respect to managing inflows and outflows of Rainy Lake, we have requested that inflows be decreased at the Kettle Falls Dam, which is currently wide open. At the International Falls/Fort Frances dam, reportedly, four waste gates (out of and five canal gates on the Fort Frances side, along with the turbine flows on both sides of the border, have increased the water flow rate to 22,495 cubic feet per second (a high flow rate). The Water Levels Committee has advised the RLPOA that the flow cannot be increased because of the downstream effects on the Rainy River, which is only about five inches from reaching the peak of the 2014 river level, and the for-bay level above the dam just east of town cannot be lowered any further as it would affect the paper mill’s ability to draw water for its operations. They also advise that the flow at Kettle Falls will not be reduced until the Namakan, Sand Point, Crane, and Kabetogama water levels fall back into the rule curve.
Looking forward, hopefully, the Rainy River will crest in the next few days and outflows from Rainy Lake can be increased to a level that offsets inflows. While rain is forecasted for this weekend, the weather forecaster at NOAA advises that anticipated rainfall levels in the area this coming weekend should remain below one inch – a level that our water system should be able to handle without adding any stress. We should always keep in mind that water levels on Rainy Lake are a result of not only local precipitation but also the feeding water systems that stretch down to the Lake Vermillion area, flowing northward through Crane Lake, as well as watershed areas to the northeast of us.
Concerning personal property, however, residents on the lake should consider taking measures to protect their property. If you have crib docks, the rising ice and water levels could lift the dock off the cribs. As a precaution, you might consider adding weight to the dock, like barrels filled with water or sandbags, or pumping water onto the top of the dock that melts the ice around the edges.
For information, below is the latest release of information from the Water Levels Committee:
Hello, Rainy-Lake of the Woods Stakeholders and Community,
Sending on behalf of the Water Levels Committee co-chairs:
As those of you in the basin will be aware, the recent few weeks have seen much above normal precipitation in the basin for the month of April. Most notably, this past weekend we saw several inches of rainfall around Rainy Lake and south of Rainy River in the tributary basins.
As a result, inflows to both Rainy and Namakan Lakes increased sharply earlier this week, and both lakes are now above their respective rule curve bands for this time of year. Additionally, flow in the Rainy River downstream of Rainy Lake has also increased too much above normal levels as a result of tributary inflow and increasing outflow from Rainy Lake. As of this morning, the water level at the Town of Rainy River is just below the peak that was seen during the 2014 flood event.
The Water Levels Committee met on Monday to discuss actions required and is continuing to monitor the situation on the lakes as well as downstream on the Rainy River. Presently, the operator has removed all logs at Namakan Lake and is adjusting gate openings to maximize outflow from Rainy Lake. The Committee has sent notice alerting the IJC to the basin conditions and requesting from the Commission a Supplementary Order that would allow for deviation from the upper rule curve on Rainy Lake, should conditions warrant the WLC to direct holding additional water in the lake to mitigate downstream effects on communities.
The situation is evolving and although it appears the flow in some tributaries has or is beginning to crest, the level of Rainy Lake, even with an outflow increase, will continue to rise and may reach the all gates open level. With the rapid change in water level, we are beginning to hear reports of dock and property damage.
The RLPOA Board of Directors is thrilled to inform you that, through its partnership with The Koochiching Soil and Water Conservation District, the “Hybrid Cattail Removal and Waterflow Enhancement'' project has been awarded a Conservation Partners Legacy Grant by the Lessard-Sam Outdoor Heritage Council. The funding includes $399,500 from the State of Minnesota and $65,000 in matching support from community partners to underwrite the project cost of $465,000.
Our project was funded because grant evaluators recognize that it will enhance the habitat for fish and wildlife in a waterway impacted by the placement of county road 134. This road sheltered the waterway from current and wave action and trapped nutrients from decades of inadequate septic systems which contributed to the subsequent rapid encroachment of hybrid cattails. These cattails obliterated the waterway and displaced the native vegetation.
The initial proposal outlined in our January 10, 2021 mailing to RLPOA members was scaled back to include the removal of 9 acres of hybrid cattails on either side of county Road 134.
The project is comprised of four main activities:
Removal of hybrid cattails and enhancement of water flow increases the likelihood of success in planting native plant species. The current dense monoculture of hybrid cattails provides a poor habitat and an inferior food source for wild fish and wildlife. A diverse growth of native plants will significantly improve the habitat for fish and wildlife.
COLLABORATIONS AND WORDS OF GRATITUDE
A workgroup from RLPOA collaborated with many others to develop the above plan and we would not have succeeded without their support. We wish to acknowledge this teamwork:
A public meeting for area residents some time in the fall of 2022.
Members of RLPOA Hybrid Cattail Removal and Waterflow Enhancement Workgroup
Dan Vellieux( RLPOA President)
Satellite photo with project area outlined in red.