IJC says open to scrapping Plan 2014

LAKE ONTARIO – The International Joint Commission (IJC) says it’s no longer married to the idea of Plan 2014.

The IJC announced last week it plans to review the policy that regulates water levels along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and on Feb. 29 suggested they are open to any and all recommendations stemming from the review including scrappy the controversial policy.

Jane Corwin, co-chair of the IJC, said the agency’s job is to protect the interests of everyone involved, including shoreline property owners and the shipping industry, and it wants to do “whatever is best and suits the interests of the stakeholders of the system.”

“If it means scrapping the plan, we’ll scrap the plan,” Corwin said.

Officials maintain the plan itself is not the cause of the high water; Lake Ontario has seen record inflow from its feeder systems, and high precipitation in the basin has exacerbated the problem.

Despite the insistence that no regulation plan would be able properly to mitigate the high water, the board has been “deviating” from Plan 2014 since November in an effort to reduce the possibility of flooding during the spring freshet.

“We really aren’t following Plan 2014 and we haven’t for months,” Corwin said.

He added the board will continue to deviate “for months going forward.”

The plan sets out the limit for how much water can be let out at any given time, so deviating allows the IJC to release record amounts of water out of the dam. But the amount of water coming in is also record-setting.

“In the last three years outflows have been substantially above average,” Corwin said. “The reality is the water level is affected as much by the amount of water coming in as the policies for letting water out.”

Over the last “three years and three months” there have only been two weeks that the water coming into the system has been considered average, she said.

And while outflows have been at record high rates, it still can’t match the inflow.

The fact they’re deviating from their plan is not an indication the plan is at fault, an engineer for the agency explained.

The IJC received a $3 million in funding from both the United States and Canadian governments “to investigate possible improvements that could be made to Lake Ontario outflow regulation activities.”

This effort will be managed by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) committee, a sub-committee to the IJC’s river board, the International Niagara Board of Control, and the International Lake Superior Board of Control.

The review will take 18 to 24 months and “will focus on gathering information to help inform the critical decisions needed to best manage these extreme conditions.”

In the meantime, IJC officials plan to continue deviating from Plan 2014 and letting out the “maximum” amount of water they can before the shipping season opens on Apr. 1.

If by Mar. 31 the water is still at dangerously high levels, the IJC says they will re-evaluate to see if an extended closure will be required.

  • With files from the Cornwall Standard Freeholder