Inflows into Lake of the Woods and surrounding lakes may have peaked, according to the Lake of the Woods Control Board.

In an interview with Q104 and KenoraOnline this week, Chair of the LWCB, Michael O’Flaherty, explains that board members and stakeholders are continuing to monitor water levels upstream from the Norman Dam, and they are seeing some promising data.

“We see that there is a peaking occurring in the inflows and in the elevations of the headwaters for Lake of the Woods. The quantity of water that these lakes can hold is maxing out. So, it backs up the water onto the land, and we see a peak on the elevation and inflow curves.”

“Although it is still there, it will take time for it to come downstream. As long as we maintain the outflows at current levels and we see a continued reduction in the inflows, and drier weather will help that, then we will eventually see the levels decrease. This is a very extraordinary event,” says O’Flaherty.

The LWCB says inflows remain over double the maximum amount of water they’re able to release through fully opened dams in the Kenora area, and O’Flaherty notes a decline in levels is still likely multiple weeks away. 

O’Flaherty explains that water flowing into Lake of the Woods has been recorded at 2500 cubic metres per second, which is roughly 250 per cent higher than normal flow levels, which sit around 1000 m3/s for this time of year.

As it stands, outflows remain at about 1250 m3/s, meaning only about half of what’s coming into the lake is leaving the lake through normal means. The excess is being backed up onto shorelines, roadways, trails systems and more across the region.

Overall, the Lake of the Woods went up another 30 centimetres over the last week, while levels on the Winnipeg River are about 6 feet higher than usual. Both watersheds are expected to rise by another 6” or so over the coming week.

The board adds that water levels on Namakan Lake and Rainy Lake are around their 2014 peaks and may exceed all-time records, and levels in the Lac Seul area have risen by over 26”.

And with more rain in this week’s forecast, conditions aren’t expected to improve any time soon. Due to the expected precipitation, the LWCB says a return to normal flow conditions is ‘unlikely’ in the coming weeks.

“Any precipitation that occurs in the Lake of the Woods basin is going to make things worse,” adds O’Flaherty.

“We expect Lake of the Woods to rise by 15 to 20 centimetres in the coming days, which will put us very close to the 2014 highs that we saw. With additional rain, there’s potential for it to go even higher.”

The snow-filled winter and wet spring have been the cause of the rising water levels. Over the winter, the area received 305.8 cm of snow as we broke a 61-year-old snowfall record, and on May 9, the area received the same amount of rain that we usually see throughout the entirety of May in a normal year.

“Record levels of precipitation through April and above-average snowpack in the Lake of the Woods area does account for this quantity of water,” he adds.

“This is a phenomenon that’s being experienced throughout northwestern Ontario and into southern Manitoba. It’s not unique to the lake of the Woods area, but we’re likely to see more of an increase in lake levels.”

With dams being fully opened, the International Lake of the Woods Control Board has been activated and must approve any further actions on Lake of the Woods.

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry is making sandbags available for unorganized residents at their Robertson Street office in Kenora and the Public Works Garage in Red Lake. They’re also available at Fire Station 1 for Kenora folks.

Residents are asked to secure their shoreline structures like boats and docks, as more roadway and shoreline property damage can be expected with the recent water levels.