New lake levels plan proposed


The International Joint Commission is advancing yet another proposal to change how it regulates Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River water levels. But the new proposal projects that shoreline property owners may face some additional costs from water damage, which is an issue that's driven their successful opposition to past plans.

The IJC has used the same levels plan since 1963, and it didn't develop it with some key environmental factors in mind. For instance, that plan tries to keep lake levels fairly stable, and costal wetlands, which are important habitat for many species, have suffered because they need fluctuating water levels to survive. Last year, the IJC proposed a plan called Bv7, which was meant to restore more of the lake's natural variability, but property owners' opposition prevented its adoption.

The new Plan 2014 is based on Bv7 but incorporates additional "trigger points," IJC public affairs advisor Bernard Beckhoff said during a presentation this morning. When the water levels reached certain extreme high or low points, an IJC sub-board would be able to take "extraordinary actions," he said. In plain terms, it'd be able to let more water out of the lake into the seaway during high-level periods, or it could keep more water in the lake during periods of extreme low levels.

The commission moderates water levels through the Moses-Saunders hydropower dam, which stretches between Massena, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario.

The commission acknowledges that Plan 2014 would carry some additional costs for lakeshore property owners and that shoreline structures would have a shorter life span under the plan. The costs would be less than under the unmodified Bv7 proposal, Beckhoff said.

The IJC is accepting public comment on the proposal starting today and continuing through August 30. It'll also hold public hearings, including a technical hearing on Tuesday, July 16 in Rochester. It'll be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency, 125 East Main Street.

Details of the proposal, a full hearing schedule, and instructions for submitting comments are available here.