January 17, 1997
| Frank Bevacqua
| Fabien Lengellé
International Joint Commission Seeks Relief for Shoreline Communities in Setting
Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Flows
The International Joint Commission invoked criterion (k) of its Orders of Approval for Lake
Ontario-St. Lawrence River regulation based on high water supplies to Lake Ontario and a
recommendation made by its International St. Lawrence River Board of Control today.
Under high water supply conditions, criterion (k) gives precedence to shoreline property
owners on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River from the Thousand Islands to past
Montreal when setting flows through the international hydropower project at Massena, New
York and Cornwall, Ontario.
The Board of Control's recommendation was based on the determination that water "supplies
of the past, as adjusted" have been exceeded. Criterion (k) is an extraordinary measure that is
invoked when water supplies exceed those experienced prior to 1954.
Since September of 1996, the Board of Control's strategy has been to release more water from
Lake Ontario than would have been called for under the current regulation plan, known as
Plan 1958-D, whenever it could do so without adversely affecting other interests. Though the
water level of Lake Ontario is high, it would presently be 0.7 metres (2.3 feet) higher had the
project not been built.
The International Joint Commission was created under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to
help prevent and resolve disputes over the use of waters along the Canada-United States
boundary. Its responsibilities include approving certain projects that would change water levels
on the other side of the boundary. If it approves a project, the Commission's orders of
approval may require that flows through the project meet certain conditions to protect interests
in both countries.
The International St. Lawrence River Board of Control was established by the Commission in
its 1952 Order of Approval. Its main duty is to ensure that outflows from Lake Ontario meet
the requirements of the Commission's Orders. The Board also develops regulation plans and
conducts special studies as requested by the Commission.
Supplementary Information about Criterion (k)
January 17, 1997
In the event of supplies in excess of the supplies of the past as adjusted, the works in the
International Rapids Section shall be operated to provide all possible relief to the riparian
owners upstream and downstream. In the event of supplies less than the supplies of the past as
adjusted, the works in the International Rapids Section shall be operated to provide all possible
relief to navigation and power interests. [Criterion (k) of the International Joint Commission's
Orders of Approval for Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Regulation of 1952 as amended in
The International St. Lawrence River Board of Control and the International Joint
Commission acted on criterion (k) at this point in time to set clear priorities and provide the
authority that may be needed to achieve them. Invoking criterion (k) has no immediate
effect on flow releases, because the Board of Control is presently setting flows that will allow
a stable ice cover to form. Forming a stable ice cover helps prevent underwater ice blockages
that can restrict flows. Once the ice cover is formed, the Board of Control will release flows
as high as possible without causing downstream flooding, as permitted under the winter
operations provision of Commission's Orders of Approval. However, at the conclusion of
winter operations, criterion (k) provides the authority to release higher flows as necessary to
achieve the specified priorities.
The level of Lake Ontario is presently at 74.81 metres (245.44 feet) above sea level (IGLD
1985), which is approximately 0.25 metres (10 inches) above its long term average for this
time of year. A considerable range of levels could occur this year under criterion (k)
operations depending on precipitation and temperature in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence
River basin, as well as the extent to which flows in the St. Lawrence River are constrained by
ice conditions, flooding conditions downstream, particularly during the spring runoff from the
Ottawa River basin, or the potential for adverse effects to any other interest, including
Under criterion (k), the Board of Control will continue monitor conditions upstream and
downstream to determine the appropriate flow through the power project. The Commission
and its Board of Control will continue to carefully consider conditions on Lake Ontario and the
St. Lawrence River to determine the appropriate duration of criterion (k) operations.
For further information contact Frank Bevacqua at the International Joint Commission,
U.S. Section, by telephone at (202)736-9000, fax (202)736-9015, or email: email@example.com or Fabien
Lengellé at the International Joint Commission, Canadian Section by telephone at
fax (613)993-5583, or email: http://www.ijc.org/fr/contacts/contacts.htm