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.
Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on July 31, 2019coresamples

Last week, I discussed the impressive cleanup of the Rainy River, including substantial reductions in phosphorus from the paper mills, sewage treatment plants and other sources in the past several decades. The question I left you with was, if phosphorus was reduced, why are we still getting algae blooms?

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on July 26, 2019RRfibremat

For those of us living at the north end of Lake of the Woods, the Rainy River is a two hour car drive away and perhaps not familiar to us, but this river is the most influential tributary to Lake of the Woods, contributing about 70 per cent of the total water flowing into the lake. This week, we take a look at a bit of the fascinating history of the cleanup of the Rainy River – which has had a direct impact on the health of Lake of the Woods.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on July 18, 2019

July18picLast week, I outlined what a “watershed” is and described the geography of ours – the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed.  It is huge and diverse, so it goes without saying that the environmental issues are just as diverse.

Low populations, fairly low industrial impacts, lots of forest cover and water all make for a generally healthy watershed.  But over the years as more attention turned towards ecosystem health, it became clear that there are, indeed, environmental stresses here and what is a stress on Lake of the Woods is not necessarily a stress upstream. Let’s go on a tour of the watershed from east to west and see how the issues differ as we move downstream.

Originally published in the Kenora Miner and News on: July 10, 2019

watershed mapThe Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed is 69,750 sq. km, roughly 400 km east to west and 260 km north to south. About 41 per cent of the watershed is in the U.S. and 59 per cent is in Canada. If you’ve travelled to Atikokan or Upsala in Ontario or Ely or Cook in Minnesota, you were still in our watershed. If you’ve paddled the Turtle River in Ontario or fished in Vermilion Lake in Minnesota, you were still in our watershed. Approximately 14 per cent of the watershed is open water; where there is land, 93 per cent is covered by forest or grassland, and much of that is within provincial parks and national forests. Only 6.4 per cent of the landbase is agricultural, mostly found in the lower Rainy River area.

Originally published in the Kenora Miner and News on: June 28, 2019

satimageThe view from space is compelling. Each summer, Lake of the Woods is plagued by blue green algae blooms, as can be seen in the satellite image pictured above. It’s a transboundary lake – provincially and internationally – and that means that we must cooperate closely with our neighbors in Manitoba and the U.S. to protect our shared waters. This is the reason we have the International Joint Commission, or IJC, and its Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board, with a mandate to monitor ecosystem health across the border.  So, how do you protect water quality when the water crosses multiple boundaries? 

Originally published in the Kenora Miner and News on: June 24, 2019

kelli canoeWater…it gives us life, it symbolizes summer, it has spiritual meaning, it calms us, it’s what defines our community. To celebrate the importance of water locally and the great efforts collectively to protect it, this column will be dedicated to water throughout the summer months – its quality, its governance, its future and how we can all help to preserve it.

Here in Kenora, we are at the downstream end of the vast Rainy-Lake of the Woods watershed – 69,750 sq.km in size, the size of New Brunswick! We share our water with Minnesota and Manitoba – it is an international treasure, providing drinking water to over three quarters of a million people. What happens upstream impacts what happens downstream and this is why we need to work together with our neighbours on research and on a plan with actions to protect our water.

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