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Lake Ontario outflows to remain above Plan 2014 guidelines

Veronica Volk
Water from Lake Ontario is released into the St. Lawrence River through the Moses Saunders Power Dam in Massena.

The amount of water that officials on the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board are releasing from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River continues to be above the usual outflows for this time of year. That is due to the fact that lake levels are still over the so-called trigger levels in the government's water management, called Plan 2014. When those levels are exceeded, the Board can deviate from the Plan, allowing for more water to be pushed into the river.

Officials on the Board now plan to continue deviating from Plan 2014 even after Lake Ontario drops below the trigger levels. A spokesperson for the board says they want to remove as much water as possible from the lake. It's a step officials took the last time levels were this high in 2017.

The news comes at a time when Lake Ontario hovers 16 inches above its long-term average, with a bleak forecast from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agency predictsthat levels in Lake Ontario this winter could be anywhere from slightly below average to 2 feet above average. 

"All the Great Lakes are high right now, there’s been a lot of rain within the whole Great Lakes basin," said Keith Koralewski with the Army Corps in Buffalo. "Moving forward, it’s uncertain to know how much rain we’re going to see over the next year, but it is expected that levels will likely stay above average for most of the Great Lakes."

Lake Ontario reached record-high levels this year, causing widespread flooding along the lakeshore - a repeat from similar events two years ago. New York State and individual homeowners are now pursuing lawsuits against the International Joint Commission, which oversees the Board, for its water management practices.

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