Officials Grow Concerned Over Rising Water Levels Within Lake of the Woods

The Rainy River-Lake of the Woods Watershed’s extraordinarily strong flows and record April rains continue to raise water levels on Lake of the Woods.

The Lake of the Woods Control Board opened the Norman Dam in Kenora, Ontario, on May 7 to increase the amount of water flowing out of Lake of the Woods and into the Winnipeg River in response to the influx of water, but water is flowing into the big lake faster than it is flowing out, according to the LWCB.

According to LWCB figures, water flows into Lake of the Woods at around 100,000 cubic feet per second but exits at less than 45,000 cfs.

The average elevation of Lake of the Woods was approaching 1,061 feet above sea level as of May 9. That’s close to the heights reached in June 2014, when Lake of the Woods soared to 1,062.8 feet above sea level, causing widespread flooding. According to Herald records, the 2014 level was the highest on Lake of the Woods in more than a decade and roughly a foot higher than average midsummer levels.

As a precaution, city officials in Warroad, Minn., built temporary flood barriers along the coast of Lake of the Woods in 2014.

The LWCB said in a press release that it altered outflow from Lake of the Woods over the winter to build storage area in the lake ahead of strong spring runoff from significant melting snow. In early April, it began progressively leaking substantially more water.

The onset of spring runoff was delayed due to unusually chilly April weather, then three weeks of Colorado lows dumped significant rain on the region. According to the LWCB, April precipitation was the greatest on record for the Lake of the Woods-Rainy-Namakan basins, and the combination of rain, melting snow, and frozen ground swiftly resulted in unusually high Rainy River flows.

Dam operators at Rainy Lake are releasing “extremely high flows” as the lake rapidly rises, according to the LWCB, while tributaries to the Rainy River contribute more flow than the dam.

The consequence is unusually high inflow to Lake of the Woods, which has increased by 25 inches since early April, according to the LWCB.

The Lake of the Woods is predicted to rise near the top of the statutory operational range for the lake of 1,061.25 feet by mid-May, notwithstanding dry weather, which has been unusual recently.

Water levels on Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River will continue to climb until water flows out faster than it comes in, according to the LWCB.

The amount of rain in the following weeks will determine this. Wet weather might result in extremely high lake and river levels, according to the LWCB, and places that have experienced past high-water occurrences should be prepared.

According to Frank Walsh of Walsh’s Bay Store Camp, property owners on Lake of the Woods’ Northwest Angle are already suffering the effects as massive pieces of ice, broken away by rising water and strong current, have destroyed docks on Oak and Flag islands.

Walsh, who has operated the Oak Island camp with his wife, Laura, since 1994, said the main lake has never been this high this early in the year, especially with ice still covering portions of the lake.

“I believe there will be a lot of ice damage,” he added, “since things are coming away earlier and (the pieces) have more bulk than they typically do.” “It’s got a lot more power, and it’ll take things out when it strikes it.”

As the lake level rises, Walsh said on Tuesday that he has already placed enormous containers of water on each side of his docks to weigh them down and prevent them from breaking free.

If the recent run of unpredictable, wet weather continues, the water problems will endure, and maybe intensify. Walsh acknowledges that water managers can only do so much.

He remarked of the LWCB, “I believe they do a very good job of regulating it as best they can.” “I suppose it’s like to herding cats.” It’s not a science where you’set the dial at a certain level.'”

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