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Our view: Flooded area around Lake of the Woods, in northern Minnesota, should be declared a disaster area.

Photos from Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake show just how bad things are getting on the massive border waters that straddle the U.S.-Canada border in northern Minnesota.

Herald pull quote, 6/8/22
Herald graphic
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Photos from Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake show just how bad things are getting on the massive border waters that straddle the U.S.-Canada border in northern Minnesota.

At Rusty Myers Flying Service on the Ontario side of Rainy Lake, a photo published in Saturday’s Grand Forks Herald showed floodwater lapping at the base of structures that typically are yards from the shore. A video from Flag Island Resort on Lake of the Woods that appeared with the online version of the story shows high waves crashing into docks and buildings, leaving debris in their wake.

According to the Lake of the Woods Control Board, the lake reached 1,062.6 feet above sea level late last week, higher than the 2014 peak of 1,062.29 but below the record of 1,064 feet set in July 1950. Again, that was last week – before the water on the big lake was expected to rise another 4 to 5 inches.

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It’s going to be devastating to the summer tourism industry and property owners along the border waters, which typically are a destination point for thousands of recreationalists – anglers, boaters and people who just want to enjoy the beauty of the area – who typically come to the region each summer. They stay at the resorts and hotels, employ the local guide services and frequent restaurants and retailers.

And it comes after the inconsistency of the pandemic, which was crippling for many businesses in that region.

Now, some are rightfully hoping for a disaster declaration for the counties along Lake of the Woods and other border waters. We agree – something needs to be done, and quickly.

Said the Lake of the Woods Control Board, in a statement: “This is a full regional flooding event that is without precedent on record, and beyond the capacity of any dams in the system to manage. Many water level gauges across the region have reported new records for lake and river water levels and river flows.”

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In a Grand Forks Herald report over the weekend, Dick Myers, a Flag Island resident, said he has been reaching out to state lawmakers to push for a disaster declaration.

We agree with Myers, and similarly urge lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz to consider the escalating crisis that is happening at Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake and the towns along their shores. Walz can request a presidential disaster declaration, which would unlock federal assistance for public and private infrastructure programs.

Myers, in an interview with the Herald, said part of the problem is Lake of the Woods’ relative obscurity. After all, Minnesota is a state with more than 10,000 lakes and 5.5 million people, the majority of whom live in places like Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Duluth.

“The rest of the state doesn’t even know we exist up here,” he said. “If it were Minneapolis or down in southern Minnesota somewhere, it would be headline news. But like I say, no one knows about us up here or cares.”

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The people and businesses along Lake of the Woods need help, and a disaster declaration is a good start. Lawmakers and Gov. Walz, please push for this, sooner than later.

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