The agency responsible for monitoring international boundary waters in northwestern Ontario is warning about the potential for high water levels this spring.
The International Joint Commission has already ordered companies operating dams on Rainy Lake and nearby Namakan Lake to increase outflow from the lakes to increase their capacity.
While the IJC is concerned about the deep snow pack this year — and the amount of water it contains — spokesperson Matthew DeWolfe said the main consideration will be how much rain falls in the coming weeks.
“If it all happens at once, obviously there's much more water than can be handled by the dam operations and the lake goes up much more quickly than would be preferred,” said the Canadian engineering adviser to the International Joint Commission's International Rainy - Lake Of The Woods Watershed Board.
"The most important factor in determining what the peak levels will be in the spring and heading into early summer is not the snow pack, historically. It's the amount of rainfall that comes."
The good news is that the shorter-term forecast does not indicate much precipitation, however “the snow pack is really significant this year,” DeWolfe continued. “It's much higher than it's been for many, many years, and there's a lot of water content there.”
Adjusting water levels in lakes is a balancing act, as releasing too much water at this point could mean those lake levels won't get back to normal by summer.
The two power companies affected by the recent orders are H20 Power on the Canadian side of the lakes, and Boise Inc. on the American side.
Last year, similar outflow directives were given to dam owners on Namakan Lake, but not Rainy Lake, DeWolfe said.