Water levels on the Lake of the Woods continue to rise, with extremely high flows and April rainfall being recorded at the Rainy River-Lake of the Woods watershed.
In response to the influx of water, 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 Woods and into the Winnipeg River, but the water is still flowing, the LWCB said. That it flows faster than it flows into the big lake.
LWCB figures show that the water in the Lake of the Woods is flowing at a rate of about 100,000 cubic feet per second, but at a rate of less than 45,000 cfs.
As of May 9, the average elevation of the Lake of Woods was approaching 1,061 feet above sea level. This is approaching levels seen in June 2014, when the Lake of the Woods rose 1,062.8 feet above sea level and caused widespread flooding. The Herald archives show that 2014 levels were the highest at Lake Woods in more than a decade and were nearly a foot higher than normal summer levels.
Warrod, Minn. in 2014. In 2000, city officials built temporary flood walls on the shores of the Lake of the Woods as a precaution.
In a news release, the LWCB said it adjusted outflow from Lake Woods throughout the winter to create storage rooms in the lake in anticipation of higher spring runoff from substantial melting ice. It slowly started releasing even more water in early April.
The unusually cold April weather delayed the onset of spring runoff, and Colorado received heavy rainfall in the region for three consecutive weeks. The LWCB said April rainfall for the Lake of the Woods-Rainy-Namakan watershed was the highest on record, and the combination of rain, melting snow and frozen ground resulted in extremely high flows from the Rainy River.
At Rainy Lake, dam operators are releasing “very high flows” because the lake rises quickly, the LWCB said, while tributaries of the Rainy River are adding more flows than the dam.
The LWCB said the result is an exceptionally high flow in the Lake of the Woods, and the large lake has increased by 25 inches since early April.
The LWCB said that even with the dry season — a rare occurrence, of late — Lake of the Woods is expected to move toward the top of the legislative operating limit for the lake of 1,061.25 feet by mid-May.
The LWCB said that as long as the water flows fast, the water level on the Lake of Woods and the Winnipeg River will continue to rise.
It will depend on the rains in the coming weeks. Wet weather can result in much higher lake and river levels, and the LWCB said areas affected by past high-water events should be prepared for that possibility.
According to Frank Walsh of Walsh’s Bay Store Camp, property owners at the Northwest Angle of the Lake of the Woods are already feeling the effects, as large chunks of ice, loosened by rising water and a strong current, can lead to oak and Flagged off docks on the islands.
Walsh, who has owned the camp on Oak Island with his wife Laura since 1994, said he had never seen such a large lake earlier this year—notably with ice still covering parts of the lake. .
“I think we’re going to see a lot of ice damage because things are loosening prematurely and (the pieces) have more mass than normal,” he said. “It’s got a lot of oomph, and when it hits something, it’s going to take it out.”
As lake levels continue to rise, Walsh said Tuesday that he has already placed large containers of water on each side of his dock to ease them and hopefully prevent them from loosening.
The water problem will persist, and probably worsen, if the recent unstable, rainy season continues. Walsh admits that there is only so much that water managers can do.
“I think they do a great job of controlling it,” he said of LWCB. “I think it’s like grazing cats. It’s not accurate, ‘set the dial to a given level’ (science).
For more information visit www.lwcb.ca.