A vocal and engaged audience of Foundation supporters and LOWDPOA members packed the room in Kenora on August 10, to meet with the IJC Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board and with IJC Commissioners and staff advisors.IJC Commissioner Richard Morgan opened the meeting with Mike Goffin, Co-Chair of the watershed board, providing an update on activities over the past year including reports by the co-chairs of the Water Levels Committee (Gail Faveri), Engagement Committee (Charlene Mason) and Aquatic Ecosystem Health Committee (Todd Sellers).

The Water Levels Committee oversees the water level regulation of Rainy and the Namakan chain of lakes, upstream of Lake of the Woods. Its report focused on this year's efforts to keep the upstream lakes within rule curves (high and low water limits that shift seasonally) and also on ongoing refurbishment of the dam at Fort Frances.

The Aquatic Ecosystem Health Committee has responsibility for water quality and other ecosystem health issues, including on Lake of the Woods. This committee, formed in March 2016, presented its first annual report on water quality to the IJC this year, summarizing conditions in the 2012-2014 and is currently working on its second report for 2015 data and on a project to review of water quality objectives.

The Engagement Committee deals with public outreach and communications and is currently working on a variety of public engagement tools including improvements to the Board's website, answers to FAQs and identifying ways for the public to become involved with the Board.

The Board also held a session for an update on the IJC Lake of the Woods Basin Water Quality Plan of Study submitted to Canada and the USA in 2015 – covered under the next heading.


Update on IJC Water Quality Plan of Study:
Announcement By Canada of Funding to Environment and Climate Change Canada to Develop a Binational Science Plan

  • On August 4, 2016, six days prior to the IJC public meeting in Kenora, the Government of Canada announced that it was assigning the $5.5 million earmarked for Lake of the Woods in the March 2016 Federal Budget to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) for studies in the Canadian portion of the Lake of the Woods basin, rather than to the IJC for the IJC water quality plan of study. Few details were available other than that ECCC had a draft science plan focused on nutrients and algae and enhanced monitoring.The IJC Board invited Dr. Véronique P. Hiriart-Baer of ECCC to present an overview of its draft study plan for Lake of the Woods. Dr. Hiriart-Baer presented a high level overview of the draft plan, which focuses on studies primarily to address concerns about nutrient enrichment and harmful algae blooms. It appears that the plan is build from and covers some elements of the IJC Lake of the Woods Water Quality Plan of Study but not all.

    Public Concerns Expressed At Meeting

    In general, the announcement that Canada was investing $5.5 million in studies focused on Lake of the Woods water quality is a good thing. However there were numerous questions and concerns from the public about its plan for governments to develop their own binational science plan, rather than through the IJC Plan of Study, that sent clear messages to the representatives of representatives from the Government of Canada who attended the meeting. Key themes of the comments revolved around the issues of:

    Why a new plan was needed when there already was a plan developed by all the scientists in the basin and endorsed by the public at the meeting last year.
  • Why was Canada's investment going to Environment Canada and not to the IJC?
  • How could the public review and provide input to the plan?
  • There had not been any consultation by ECCC nor a mechanism for consultation presented. In drafting a plan alone, ECCC has missed an opportunity to draw on the valuable brain-trust of the various scientists, agencies, organizations, and stakeholders that provided input into the IJC Plan of Study and who have been actually working on the water quality problems for many years.
  • The ECCC draft plan is not for binational studies but is for work on the Canadian portion of the lake.
  • The ECCC draft plan addresses only some of priority issues identified in the IJC Plan of Study – what would happen to the other issues such as invasive species, internationally coordinated monitoring?
  • Clear language and agreement with other jurisdictions on science language, protocols, sampling and methods were needed if ECCC studies pursued independently were to be useful in the multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional context of Lake of the Woods.
  • What would be the role of the IJC?  How would ECCC studies be coordinated with Minnesota's work and the work of the provinces?
  • How would the ECCC support development of international water quality objectives and reduction targets for phosphorus to combat algae blooms and why wasn't a commitment to objectives and targets part of the plan?