Good Question: Are Other Area Lakes Flooding Too?

June 13, 2017 06:13 AM

We've seen devastating flooding along Lake Ontario, but are other area lakes, which have had the same rainfall amounts, flooding as well?

Viewers pointed out that while levels of the Finger Lakes and the other nearby great lake, Lake Erie, are high they have not heard reports of devastating flooding along the shores of those waterways.

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We checked, Lake Erie levels are indeed at record highs, but there are no reports of the water flooding homes, streets or communities along the shore.

We reached out to Keith Koralewski. He is a water management expert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Lake Erie and Lake Ontario are two different basins so you can't compare the two really. They react differently to the weather pattern," Koralewski said.

Another big difference and a problem for communities along Lake Ontario -- Lake Erie drains into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River, one of the so called "supplies" leading to higher lake levels for us.

"Supplies means the water coming from Lake Erie. Because Lake Erie is unregulated, the water flows freely from the Niagara River into Lake Ontario," said Koralewski.

The heavy rainfall in the Lake Erie Basin has raised those supplies to record highs.

Taney: The International Joint Commission regulates Lake Ontario and controls its lake levels, should they also be looking at regulating Lake Erie and the water it releases to us?

Koralewski: I can't speak to that. Certainly that would have to be an I.J.C. matter since it's international boundary waters.

Taney: Are you aware of any discussion to control Lake Erie at this point? 

Koralewski: No I am not.

Taney: If we did not have this flow coming from Lake Erie would we still be seeing the problems were having today?

Koralewski: Yes. Okay, Lake Erie supplies are above average so that does contribute to Lake Ontario water levels, but the rainfall is the biggest contributor. The second highest amount on record in April and the first highest in May, so that certainly contributes to that.

Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich doesn't buy it.

He, along with several other lawmakers, including Governor Andrew Cuomo, put the blame squarely on the I.J.C. and Plan 2014. That plan went into effect this past January. Reilich said the commission decided to keep lake levels too high in the winter.

Taney: So they simply in your opinion were not proactive enough?

Reilich: Exactly. We've had similar rain events two times in the past and we did not see the flooding we are seeing now. The old plan worked well. This year they were looking at the new plan which calls for higher levels for a longer period of time and that caused the problems we're having.

Koralewski disagreed.

Taney: In your opinion, Plan 2014 is not to blame here? 

Koralewski: Levels would have been pretty much the same, within centimeters, regardless if it was the old plan or the new plan.

So the debate here continues. No word on how the I.J.C. plans to act next year, specifically in the winter. Supervisor Relich, among others, hope they don't keep levels high and leave room for the potential of another rainy spring 2018.


Pat Taney

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