Created: March 04, 2020 12:18 AM
NEW YORK (WHEC) — The joint U.S. and Canadian International Joint Commission (IJC), which regulates water levels on Lake Ontario, has launched a new inquiry to consider amendments or improvements to its controversial Plan 2014 regimen for managing lake levels, the IJC revealed on Tuesday.
In a release on its website, the IJC declared it had received $1.5 million in funding from the United States, with an additional $1.5 million in matching funds from Canada, to “investigate possible improvements that could be made to Lake Ontario outflow regulation activities.”
The IJC reported the investigation was to last between 18 and 24 months.
Residents of lakeshore communities have long blamed Plan 2014 for two springtimes of damaging floods along the lake, in 2017 and in 2019 and welcomed the news that the IJC was considering changing the plan.
"We get up every morning and we look to see what the outflow is, we look to see where the lake level is,” Greece resident Suzanne Albright, President of the Grandview Beach Association said. “It’s frustrating.”
Albright questioned whether yet another study was needed when homes along the lakes had already suffered through flooding and the lake, as of Tuesday, was at more than 246 feet above sea level, substantially higher than normal and even higher than it was last March…immediately prior to the 2019 season of flooding.
“$3 million and 18 to 24 months seems like a lot of money, and a long time,” Albright said. “When we have a flooded two out of the last three years and we could easily flood again this year.”
"Another study is really not what we think we need. We need action,” exclaimed Henry Stewart with United Shoreline.
But Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, who's on the one of the IJC’s subordinate boards, says the IJC’s new leadership, installed last year, had already effectively left plan 2014 behind and had been aggressively letting water out of Ontario, deviating far beyond the plan's limits, to bring lake levels down.
"Since May, no one has followed plan 2014,” Reilich said. “So what, in essence, is happening is the fact that we are a real-time experiment. We are pushing the [water release] limits to the highest levels in recorded history, the outflows of water in January of Lake Ontario. We expect the same numbers to come in when February numbers are ready, the highest on record ever.”
Jane Corwin, the one New Yorker on the IJC’s board agreed.
"They don't have to follow the plan,” she said. “From now until the natural cycle of the lake brings the water levels down. So we are talking in June, July, when the waters levels start coming down so we're already taking actions to help.”
Reilich noted that efforts to bring the water levels down were getting some extra help from unusually cooperative weather as mild winter temperatures had prevented the normal seasonal buildup of heavy ice on the St. Lawrence River.
That he said, reduced the threat of ice jams and allowed for much more water to be released through the river.
As of Tuesday, he anticipated the threat of lakeshore flooding in the 2020 spring season at about 35%.
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