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IJC: Don’t expect fast changes to Plan 2014

June 28, 2019 08:36 PM

SODUS POINT, N.Y. (WHEC) — Leaders of the U.S./Canadian agency that manages water levels on Lake Ontario warned not to expect dramatic change overnight as they reevaluate the controversial Plan 2014 regimen for regulating the lake.

“Any changes that happen with Plan 2014 would have to be run past governments,” explained Jane Corwin, chairwoman of the U.S. delegation to the International Joint Commission (IJC).  “It took two years to get through that process last time. I would imagine it would take a while to do it this time as well.”

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After Corwin indicated the Americans on the IJC wanted to reexamine Plan 2014 for possible revisions, members of the IJC board spoke Friday with area leaders in a round table meeting in Oswego, then met with Sodus Point homeowners dealing with damage caused by months of high water levels.  

“We see what’s happening,” exclaimed Congressman Anthony Brindisi (D) 22nd District, at the gathering.  “It’s coming at us on this train track. And we have a chance to get out of the way.  We’re asking the IJC ‘what is your plan as this train is coming at us?’ and we get no response.”

Brindisi was joined by mayors from communities such as Sodus Point, Oswego and Fair Haven which have struggled with high water for months as Lake Ontario reached, then surpassed, record levels.

Many flood-damaged communities blamed Plan 2014 for high lake levels that wreaked havoc in 2017, the very first year the plan was in effect, then struck again only two years later in 2019.  IJC commissioners have insisted the flooding was caused by extraordinary rain and snowmelt across the Great Lakes but Corwin admitted Plan 2014’s “triggers” for exactly when water was to be released from the lake, and how much, could use some scrutiny.

“People don’t have confidence in the plan,” Corwin admitted.  “So we need to go back and we need to take a closer look at it and decide ‘Is it working the way its supposed to?  Is it working the way we thought it was going to?’ and decide what, if anything, we can do differently that would improve the situation.“

The prospect of more, time-consuming research brought exasperation from Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile who, at the round table, pointed to analyses that, years before Plan 2014 was implemented, predicted it would cause flooding. “What I’m hearing from my residents is ‘enough is enough,’” he declared.  “Another study means another flood.“  

“We were told it was going to cause high water,” recalled 24th District Congressman John Katko (R).   “We were told it was going to cause flooding. And that’s exactly what happened. And it may be just a tremendous coincidence but, if it is a coincidence, it’s a colossally tremendous coincidence.”

“I’m sorry but I think you are barking at the wrong tree,” retorted Pierre Beland, Chairman of the Canadian delegation to the IJC, who again pointed to a wet spring that sent water flowing downstream across the Great Lakes.  “No plan… I said it and I’ll repeat it… No plan can handle the type of supply that we’ve had on Lake Ontario.  It is not the plan. It is not the people who manage the gates as it is planned. It is the supply.“

Corwin expressed hope that a new study might bring a reordering of the IJC’s and Plan 2014’s priorities which, in the past, have emphasized environmental considerations, such as enhancing Lake Ontario wetlands, hydroelectric power generation, and accommodating shipping traffic.  

“There are a lot of stakeholders in this situation,” she said.  “What’s happening is the homeowners on the lake are getting the brunt of it right now.  And so we’re going to be taking a good look and make sure we’re balancing the interests as we should be.”

Corwin also cautioned that the process for major change would be complex, with significant policy decisions requiring a “consensus” of the IJC board, essentially a unanimous agreement rather than just a majority vote.  Any change, she added, would also need the approval of the U.S and Canadian governments.  She predicted more discussions with the U.S. State Department and its Canadian counterpart Global Affairs Canada.

State Assemblyman Brian Manktelow promised plenty of lobbying from political leaders too.  “If they’re not going to do nothing today,” he said,  “we are going to contact the President and see what he can do for us. Because this, like it or not, is the United States of America.”

WHECTV

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