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River bottom study a go

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Equipment will be provided to the Rainy River First Nation to allow it to do a GPS hydrographic study of the Rainy River either late this summer or next spring.

Jennifer Mercer, watershed program co-ordinator for the band, said the equipment--on loan from the Ministry of Natural Resources--combines the technology of a satellite global positioning system and sonar to construct a “map” of the river bottom.

Such a study will help determine what the impact of changes in water flow would cause on the river and those who live nearby, something Mercer said has been neglected for too long.

“It’s frustrating,” she stressed. “There’s nothing done on the river.”

Although it only will take two-three weeks to do the research on the river, the water level has to be relatively high for Mercer and her field workers to “map” most of the bottom.

“If the water levels start to drop, it wouldn’t be worth our while to do the study,” Mercer said, noting the lower the river, the more river bottom ends up on dry land and therefore does not get mapped.

“We’d have to wait until next spring,” she remarked.

Once the river study is done, it will be easier to see what impact, if any, the proposed changes to the rules curves on Namakan and Rainy Lake by the International Rainy Lake Board of Control will have on the river.

Mercer initially voiced her concerns about the river when the international steering committee for the two lakes made a proposal to the IRLBC to change the 1979 rule curve.

Even though the proposed recommendations mostly affect Namakan, Mercer has started writing to municipalities along the river to support a study to be done before the lake levels are changed.

So far, Mercer has gotten little response from either the International Joint Commission (IJC) or the IRLBC about whether a closer look will be taken at the river.

“I don’t know when they’re going to change the water levels but they’re not going to wait for us to do a study,” she warned.

A public meeting on the IRLBC’s recommendations has been scheduled for July 7 here.

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