A delegation to County Council on April 18 will ask Council to have emergency plans for the possibility that flooding from high water levels on Lake Ontario could happen again. This may be aggravated by the recently implemented Plan 2014 which allows extreme lake levels to be 2.4 inches higher than previously. The issue affects property owners in both the U.S. and Canada who have a Lake Ontario waterfront so they have formed a group called United Shoreline Ontario. The presentation talks at length about Plan 2014 and implies that it was a bad decision but the reason for it was to allow for greater variation in lake levels to help coastal wetlands. The level in Lake Ontario is managed by determining the flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam located on the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York. Starting January 2017, new rules were implemented – just in time for the massive rainfall in 2017 and the resulting extreme high water levels.
The new rules (called a regulation plan) were developed by the International Joint Commission (IJC) after 16 years of study and replaced rules in place since the 1950’s (called Plan 1958DD). The IJC accepts that there will be more erosion and resulting cost but says that the environmental benefits are worth this cost. They summarize the benefits with:
Plan 2014 will allow “for more natural variations of water levels, the plan will foster the conditions needed to restore 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of coastal wetlands and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The plan will also frequently extend the recreational boating season, better maintain system-wide levels for navigation and increase hydropower production.”
“Plan 1958DD has unnaturally compressed water levels and harmed coastal ecosystems on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. These impacts were not understood when the project was approved, but it is now widely recognized that ecosystem needs must be considered along with other interests.”
See the video below for the explanation by the IJC.
But the members of United Shoreline Ontario are not happy; they say:
In spring 2017, we experienced traumatic flooding over months. It changed every part of us. Our work, our family, our heart, our finances, our health and our security. There are ~100 homes in our community. We are all changed.
By design, this new plan allows for “higher highs” and “lower lows” on Lake Ontario over extended periods of time. This will have significant impacts on the shoreline, including erosion, flooding, and dry water wells.
Further, the following costs are not included (in the change to Plan 2014):
- emergency response
- damages to municipal infrastructure (roads, drainage, sewer)
- damages to public parks and beaches
- damages to properties on bays and creek inlets
- lost economic activity from shoreline businesses
- lost taxes due to decreased property values
United Shoreline Ontario members ask that Municipalities have suitable emergency plans and that they be compensated for property damage. (As required by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty). Municipalities should then seek support from Provincial and Federal Governments (see their presentation for more on this).
Staff recommends that the presentation be “accepted for information”.
Video by IJC
- Presentation by United Shoreline Ontario
- Plan 2014 explained on the IJC web site
- News report by IJC on March 2018 lake levels (they are high once again but not as bad as 2017)
- Cobourg Waterfront recovering from high water – 11 June 2017