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Lake Ontario flooding not likely this summer

David Sommerstein
Sunrise on the St. Lawrence River in Clayton in early April 2021.

Lake Ontario is eight inches lower than average for this time of year. That’s the lowest it’s been in early April since 2015 and a hopeful sign the chance of flooding on the lake and St. Lawrence River is relatively low this summer.

Spring came early, exposing low wetlands and shorelines along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

"But this is really the lowest part of water levels for the year," says Tony David, the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's environment director and a member of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board, which oversees water flows from below Niagara Falls to Montreal. "It’s also the time when Lake Ontario begins its seasonal rise."

Credit International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board
Lake Ontario's water level is below average for this time of year, its lowest since 2015.

He says the chance of flooding is low right now. However, the Board is still keeping an eye on snowmelt into the Ottawa River and Lake Erie's persistently above-average levels upstream.

David says the long-term forecast calls for average or below-average precipitation this spring.

"Things are looks pretty good for high water events. But there’s just as much evidence that we could be heading into another dry and low supply situation."

Flooding in 2017 and 2019 caused millions of dollars in damage to shoreline properties and led homeowners to complain about the Board’s water levels management, but the Board always says Mother Nature is the real driver of water levels.

This summer, it’s possible high docks and exposed shoals are a bigger headache for boaters and homeowners than high water.

David Sommerstein, a contributor from North Country Public Radio (NCPR), has covered the St. Lawrence Valley, Thousand Islands, Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill regions since 2000. Sommerstein has reported extensively on agriculture in New York State, Fort Drum’s engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lives of undocumented Latino immigrants on area dairy farms. He’s won numerous national and regional awards for his reporting from the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Radio-Television News Directors Association. He's regularly featured on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Only a Game, and PRI’s The World.
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