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Shipping delay for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River

shorebirds gathered at lake ontario
Veronica Volk
Great Lakes Today/WXXI News
Ontario Beach is flooded and partially eroded in this 2017 photo.

The start of the shipping season on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River will be delayed by at least 12 days. It’s due to the efforts to try and deal with the possibility of flooding along the lakeshore.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which helps regulate the level of Lake Ontario to some extent through a hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence, recently voted to continue maximizing the water that flows out of Lake Ontario. That decision means that the start of the shipping season will be delayed until April 1.

And Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, who represents the interests of shoreline residents on the board, says the start of shipping could possibly be delayed even further.

“I can tell you right now that the agreement is April 1, but I can also tell you that in March we will make some further decisions if that will be adequate or if we should go until, say, mid-April,"  Reilich says.

Reilich says there is still a record amount of water coming into the Great Lakes. But he says this plan to continue a record outflow of water from Lake Ontario should help residents living along the lake.

“All the water we’re letting out will lessen the impact down the road; it doesn’t guarantee there won’t be flooding but I can guarantee there will be less of it. Right now the Army Corps of Engineers puts the likelihood of flooding this season at about 35 percent,” Reilich says.

The decision about the change in the shipping schedule brought criticism from the Chamber of Marine Commerce which represents various shipping interests in the region. It is calling on government officials to protect trade in that Saint Lawrence Seaway corridor by working with stakeholders to develop solutions that do not rely on what the chamber calls, “one ineffective dam” to solve high water levels across the Great Lakes.

The Chamber contends that the outflow through the Moses-Saunders dam is not doing much to lower the level of Lake Ontario.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.