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Lake board says flooding potential along Lake Ontario less this season

Veronica Volk
Great Lakes Today

A board that helps oversee the level of Lake Ontario says that while water levels across the lake and the St. Lawrence River have begun their typical spring rise, conditions are a lot better than they were a year ago. There were months of very high lake levels and shoreline damage in 2017.

Tom Brown is a member of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board. He says Lake Ontario is about 16" lower than it was at this time last year, although the lake level is about 8" higher than its long-term average.

Brown says the board continues to do what it can to regulate the lake, which it can do to some extent by letting more water out through the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River.

“So what we’re doing right now is almost , several times a day, if not more often, manipulating the outflow levels  to best balance…upstream interests and downstream interests,” Brown said.

Brown says the board has to regulate the outflow of water to not only help Lake Ontario shoreline residents, but also people living at other parts of the St. Lawrence River near Montreal, as well as ensure safe navigation for boats. 

The board says that those outflows  were reduced somewhat recently to address those flood risks downstream and boating issues. But officials say even with that reduction, the outflows are still above average in an effort to deal with above average levels in Lake Ontario and the Upper Great Lakes.

Brown says what is also important is that public officials continue to talk about ways to create more resilient shorelines, since flooding could return at some point depending on weather conditions.

“So that 19 or 20 years from now when we likely see the repeat of excessive water levels…it’s  time I think that not only shoreline residents and shoreline owners, but all levels of government wake up to the fact that we’re going to deal with high water again.”

There has been controversy due to a plan for the lake implemented within the last couple of years which was designed to provide for a more natural rise and fall of the waters in an effort to improvement the overall ecosystem.

A number of shoreline residents, businesses and local government officials have blamed that plan for contributing to last year's flooding, but Brown and others associated with the board and the International Joint Commission say the flooding was largely due to excessive precipitation in 2017.

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.
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