Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014

Plan 2014 triggers and deviations policy

Triggered deviations constitute the essential difference between Plan Bv7 and Plan 2014. Response to the triggers was generally, but not universally positive. Some shoreline property owners said the triggers were too extreme to help – that the Lake would already be too high or too low at the trigger levels. Supporters thought 2014 triggers provided important environmental protection while balancing the concerns of all users, including those on the south shore of Lake Ontario, but testified that further reduction of the environmental benefits provided by Plan 2014 would not be acceptable.

Comment Received

IJC Response

The high trigger levels are too high, and the low trigger levels are too low, to prevent damages from occurring.

Triggered deviations provide a measure of relief for shoreline property owners, commercial navigation, recreational boaters and others without causing unacceptable damages to the ecosystem. The U.S. and Canadian governments reviewed the  triggers that the IJC had proposed and directed that the low trigger levels be raised by a few inches (to those reached about 10% of the time from those reached about 5% of the time).

Why can’t the Board take anticipatory action to prevent Lake Ontario from reaching the trigger levels?

The triggers do anticipate potential future conditions. For example, the upper triggers are lower early and late in the year in order to help prevent extreme high water levels from occurring. Further deviations from plan rules before the triggers are reached would be the same as redefining the triggers. The IJC and governments considered different triggers and believes that the Plan 2014 triggers strike the best balance.

The Board should not have to ask the IJC for permission to deviate from plan flows when Lake Ontario reaches the trigger levels. This causes unnecessary delay.

The IJC agrees. After hearing this criticism during the 2013 Public Hearings, the IJC revised the proposed directive to the Board so that it has complete authority to deviate from plan flows, without seeking IJC approval, when Lake Ontario reaches the trigger levels.

The Board should be required to deviate from plan flows if the triggers are hit.

The Board is required to provide relief as soon as the trigger levels are reached, which will usually require a deviation from plan flows. When the high trigger levels are reached, the Board must provide all possible relief to the riparian owners upstream and downstream. When the low trigger levels are reached, the Board must provide all possible relief to municipal water intakes, navigation and power purposes, upstream and downstream. The IJC believes that the Board is best situated to determine whether deviations are needed based on the particular circumstances, and physical conditions in the watershed at that particular time.