The International Watershed Coordinator—Keeping Us Working Together.

IWC Venn 2018 07 20Kelli Saunders is the Foundation's International Watershed Coordinator. A dedicated resource to support and coordinate research, management and civic engagement initiatives underway internationally across our watershed. She keeps the three main spheres of activity in the watershed working together effectively:

  • International Joint Commission (IJC) and its International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board (IRLWWB)
  • The International Multi Agency Arrangement (IMA) research and management collaboration.
  • Local groups and agencies engaged in watershed activities throughout the bi-national basin.
trentOriginally published on August 20, 2020

Since March 2018, Trent University has been in the basin studying nutrient (primarily phosphorus) delivery to Lake of the Woods from both watershed and atmospheric sources.  It is well known that much of the nutrients that enter a waterbody are flushed in during storm events, so capturing that data is a definite challenge, especially when you don’t live here permanently. Thanks to local agencies and members of the public who are volunteering their time to help Trent, this is now possible, so more robust and indicative data are emerging.

Preliminary results of the data collected to date are showing that phosphorus export in the lower Rainy River tributaries (Everett Creek and Sturgeon, Lavallee and Pinewood Rivers) is strongly associated with sediment material, and the naturally erodible nature of the Rainy River area means that soils in this region are highly sensitive to disturbance.

septicOriginally published on August 14, 2020

As part of our “Ask An Expert Webinar Series,” we heard from Rob Davis of EcoEthic Inc., last week on how septic systems work, how to watch for signs of failure, a few myths and lots of great tips for preventing bigger problems before they happen. I was so impressed with the information, I thought it was important to share it because I know there are a lot of septic system owners out there and these systems don’t always come with a user manual.

It was interesting to find out that septic systems were first invented in France about 260 years ago, but were intended only to handle black water (i.e. human waste), not the typical things we let go down the drain like bathing and laundry soap. The systems incorporate not only physical treatment (sinking and floating of material) but, more importantly, biological treatment as well (digestion of waste by bacteria). More microbes in the system equate to better treatment and fewer nutrients exiting the system.

expertThere is a wealth of expertise locally when it comes to water quality, forestry, algae and septic systems and as part of our International Watershed Coordination Program, we are offering a free virtual webinar series this summer to give you access to some of these wonderful experts! Starting on July 29, we will be running weekly lunchtime webinars on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. CT – tune in to learn more about these topics of interest and ask questions.

crayfishCrayfish are a common sight in this neck of the woods and are a highly sought-after crustacean worldwide, being rich in protein and low in fat. In fact, in Europe, they are considered a delicacy. Crayfish are omnivorous, so they feed on animals and plants, either living or decomposing. Some are native to this area, like the virile crayfish, but it’s just as likely that you’ll see a rusty crayfish, an invasive species that has become just about as common, if not more, than its native cousin.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on July 3, 2020.

0619 kn kelliFor many, the answer to this is “nothing” because there is often a very deep connection to water for those who have waterfront property. But, the question is really about what you should allow to come between you and your lake – literally.

I was lucky enough to spend this last week out on Lake of the Woods in a favourite cabin, surrounded by trees, wildlife and, of course — water. I instantly felt a sense of calm and relaxation when I got there and as each day passed, a greater sense of respect and gratitude for this lake and its surroundings. For the most part, as I kayaked and canoed along the shoreline, I noticed many properties have kept a buffer of vegetation at the shoreline. They’ve kept things wild by letting the grass grow, letting the trees and shrubs stabilize their shoreline, minimizing the artificial structures and reducing disturbance. But, our lakes need everyone to do this, collectively, in order to have the biggest impact. Those who own waterfront property really do have a unique responsibility.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on June 23, 2020

spiny GMontzRusty crayfish, spiny waterflea, zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, rainbow smelt, narrow-leaved cattail are just a few of the over 15 aquatic/riparian species here in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River area that have come from somewhere else, they are not native to this part of the world.

In the broad sense, invasive species have the potential to drastically change the ecosystem, aggressively out-competing native species, changing the quality of water and affecting the food web, threatening wildlife and woodlands and causing significant economic losses to forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and other industries affected by their impact. Reducing the spread of these invasives is everyone’s responsibility, but it’s of particular interest to a group of specialists from Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba who meet regularly on this topic.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on June 10, 2020

SecchiIf you have been a member of a lake association, you likely know that they can be extremely productive, energetic, action-driven organizations. In our shared waters, we are fortunate to have over 30 lake associations. While these associations may originate due to concerns for taxes, infrastructure or governance, the vast majority form out of a passion to help to protect local water resources.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on June 2, 2020

LOW4Last November, I talked about “fall turnover,” a phenomenon that happens on our lakes here in northwestern Ontario when things cool off and the temperature and density of water changes, resulting in the mixing of top and bottom water layers that have developed over the summer, known as thermal stratification. As soon as the ice goes out, “spring turnover” takes place, once again mixing the waters of the lake from top to bottom.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on December 5, 2019

packIce fishing, snow machining, hiking, skiing… these are all great outdoor lake-based activities we are so lucky to have on our doorstep. Inevitably, we will bring food and drinks and, with that… garbage. With the winter season upon us and holidays around the corner, I’d like to dedicate today’s column to discussing garbage and the importance of not leaving it on the ice.

Every winter, thousands of people head out onto our lakes for ice fishing tournaments, family fishing days, snow machining on the ice road, winter construction projects, accessing cabins by car/truck and skiing or walking trails. Some days, it looks like another city has sprung up on the ice and it can make for an excellent winter experience. With this comes ice huts, campfires and temporary “campsites”.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on November 28, 2019

rainyriver scaled 2560Have you ever wondered where all the water in Lake of the Woods comes from, where it goes and why it flows in a northerly direction? The answer is in the history books – it all began when the glaciers that once covered this area started to recede and left us with the watershed landscape we have today.

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