Lake Ontario continues to rise, IJC gives board authority to deviate from Plan 2014

Apr 6, 2020

Edgemere Drive flooded due to high lake levels in 2019 and 2017.
Credit Alex Crichton / WXXI News

For shoreline communities along Lake Ontario, coronavirus isn’t the only thing they have to worry about this spring.

Lake Ontario is higher than average and expected to continue to rise for weeks.

The International Joint Commission is the group that oversees lake management. Throughout winter, they have been adjusting outflows at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the Saint Lawrence River in an attempt to keep up with the high inflows from the Upper Great Lakes.

US Co-chair Jane Corwin says it is the only tool at their disposal, and it may not be enough to stop levels from rising.

"The system was designed to help minimize the extremes," she said in a webinar hosted by the IJC on Friday. "But honestly, if you look at the 100-year average of precipitation and lake levels,you can see there’s just so much water in the system."

Corwin and her colleagues at the IJC said they are giving their board authority to continue to deviate from the lake level management plan, meaning they can let out more water.

"This gives the board the freedom to make outflow decisions more quickly and above what the plan calls for when possible to lower Lake Ontario yet still providing some reduction in the severity of flooding downstream," she said.

Corwin said there is still a 50/50 chance that the lake will peak below flood levels, but there are a lot of variables.

Locally, the state’s work on REDI -- or the resiliency and economic development initiative -- is still considered an essential service during the pandemic. Dredgers, contractors, and builders are still able to work on projects aimed at building a resilient shoreline.