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IJC to maintain Lake Ontario levels

The bi-national organization that regulates shared water between the United States and Canada has decided to maintain outflows from Lake Ontario, which are already near a record high, for at least another week.

The International Joint Commission made that announcement Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman for the IJC, Frank Bevacqua, said the board was debating increasing the outflows, which could have serious consequences. He said they are getting close to the capacity of the facilities the water has to pass through and increasing the outflows would impact navigation on the Seaway.

"The flows above where there are now at 10,200 cubic meters per second would halt the traffic in the Seaway, at least temporarily, if the flows were increased temporarily," he said.

Bevacqua said downstream flooding, in places like Montreal, remains a concern.

He noted that outflows were increased in 1993, which interrupted shipping two days per week, and over a three-week period removed about an inch of water from Lake Ontario. Doing it again would improve things to a degree along the flooded shorelines, he said, but the weather conditions will have more of an impact on how lake levels decline.

"We can manage the outflows and have an influence on water levels in the Lake and the River, but we can't control those levels," he said.

The IJC's Plan 2014 has come under fire from many residents and some politicians in districts impacted by flooding. However, Bevacqua said the IJC's technical board would have taken the same actions this year because most of the constraints were imposed by physical conditions, not the regulation plan.

He added the board is working hard to minimize the impact of high lake levels on people's property and businesses on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

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