Report on: Water management issues in the Whiteshell Provincial Park
Report to: WCA membership
Report by: Alan Roberts, P.Eng. – Director – Whiteshell Cottagers Association; and
Chair: Lake Water Levels Committee
Run-off of the heavy November precipitation into the primary collector lakes and rivers is largely completed, and is now on route to the Winnipeg River and Shoal Lake. Many of the downstream collector lakes from White Lake to the Winnipeg River, continue to be very high compared to their drawdown target levels. The drawdown has continued apace through the winter due to the relatively mild temperatures we’ve experienced this year, and we expect the target level to be achieved prior to spring break-up in most cases.
We continue to press for upgrading of the level monitoring equipment in the Whiteshell lakes, with little success thus far. Though the manual monitoring stations have been refurbished, numerous stations go unmonitored. Also, we continue to press for tapered flow control weirs that can retard the rate of discharge through the summer, rather than flat weirs which only establish the minimum level. The level of Falcon Lake is not known, however the Falcon River is now below the lake level, and the rate of drawdown is limited only by the decrepit control structure. The lack of topographic relief along the Falcon River combined with the heavy November rains, prevented the drawdown occurring until mid- January.
The snow pack is relatively light with much of this winter’s precipitation having come early – as rain instead of snow, and has entered the collection lakes along the Whiteshell River already. Though the soils are near saturation from the November rain, above normal spring run-off is not expected to occur without heavy snow fall over the next month or so, or heavy spring rains. A Functional Planning Study for replacement of the water level control structure at Falcon Lake has been initiated by MIT, and we hope to see a new facility in place within 18 months. Use of a conventional control structure will require dredging of the Falcon River (if there is enough topographic relief to provide adequate flow) which may not be permited by Environment Canada. Mechanical solutions that can raise the elevation of the Falcon River without requiring an Environmental Review are preferred over the purely gravity flow options.
Star Lake has abnormally high water level due to the November rains combined with beaver blocking the discharge culvert. The water is at 1115.75 ft. – about one foot higher than it should be and will only get worse if Parks is not able to remove the blockage before spring runoff. Parks has been asked to install beaver protection for the discharge culvert once flow is restored.