November 8, 2011
IJC outlines a draft new approach to managing levels and flows
in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system
The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released a fact sheet outlining a draft new approach to manage water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River system.
Water levels and flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are primarily determined by natural factors including rainfall and snowmelt. Under the International Joint Commission's (IJC) 1956 order of approval, the regulation of flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam has reduced the extremety of high and low water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. This has benefitted a range of interests interests upstream and downstream of the dam, including coastal property, recreational boating, hydropower production, commercial navigation and municipal water suppliers. However, The current regulation plan is based on the conditions of the last century, with no regard for environmental consequences and no process for adapting to future challenges such as bigger storms and more severe droughts.
Building on 50 years of experience, a five-year binational study and extensive public comment, the IJC is developing a new approach with the assistance of a Working Group of representatives from the governments of Canada,the United States, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the State of New York.
The draft new approach will consider all interests - environmental, social and economic. While continuing to reduce extreme high and low water levels, the draft new approach would allow more natural level and flow patterns. This is expected to improve wetland health on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River on a scale larger than any restoration actions taken to date. The improvements to wetlands and other habitat would provide benefits such as higher quality sportfishing, boating, bird watching and other outdoor activities. An adaptive management program would regularly monitor conditions and periodically review the management of levels and flows. This would improve the capability to adapt to future changes, including socio-economic changes and significant changes in climate. Improved communication with governments and stakeholders in the basin is also an integral component of the draft new approach.
The IJC has had informal discussions with First Nations and Tribes, shoreline property owners, recreational boaters, environmental organizations, local officials and others in the basin about the proposed approach. The IJC will release comprehensive documentation and hold public meetings across the watershed in 2012.
The International Joint Commission prevents and resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty and pursues the common good of both countries as an independent and objective advisor to the two governments.