GLAM Expedited Review of Plan 2014: Phase 1

What is the expedited review of Plan 2014?

Plan 2014 is the plan for regulating Lake Ontario outflows that went into effect in 2017. In two of the first three years after the plan was adopted, extremely wet conditions caused record floods on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. In response to public concerns about these extraordinarily high water levels, the International Joint Commission (IJC) asked its Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee to launch an expedited review of Plan 2014.

The GLAM Committee prioritized activities in a two-phase approach that formally began in February 2020. The first phase of the expedited review focused on providing information to the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) during this ongoing period of near-record high inflows from Lake Erie.

Phase 1:

As an initial step in this process, preliminary investigations were launched in fall 2019 to provide data quickly that the ILOSLRB could use to set Lake Ontario outflows. These early results helped the ILOSLRB set Lake Ontario outflows more effectively in the spring of 2020.

Phase 2:

The second phase looks at how Plan 2014 addresses extreme high and low water levels over the longer term. The GLAM Committee will advise the ILOSLRB on whether adjustments to the plan might make sense, not just for the current conditions, but overall. Any changes to Plan 2014 would need to be approved by the IJC and agreed to by the Governments of Canada and the United States.

Who is involved in the expedited review?

To learn more about the relationship between the International Joint Commission (IJC), International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB), the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee (GLAM) and the GLAM's Public Advisory Group (PAG) please refer to the roles and responsibilities graph here.

International Joint Commission

Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission (IJC) because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.

The IJC is guided by the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1909. The treaty provides general principles, rather than detailed prescriptions, for preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared between the two countries and for settling other transboundary issues. The specific application of these principles is decided on a case-by-case basis.

The IJC has two main responsibilities: approving projects that affect water levels and flows across the boundary and investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions. The IJC's recommendations and decisions take into account the needs of a wide range of water uses, including drinking water, commercial shipping, hydroelectric power generation, agriculture, ecosystem health, industry, fishing, recreational boating and shoreline property.

International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board

The International Lake Ontario - Saint Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) was established by the International Joint Commission (IJC) in its 2016 Order of Approval. The Board's main duty is to ensure that outflows from Lake Ontario meet the requirements of the IJC's Order implementing Plan 2014. The Board also communicates with the public about water levels and flow regulation and works with the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee which monitors the performance of the regulation plans in the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee

The overall objective of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee is to provide information to the Boards regarding the effects that the structures approved in the Commission’s Orders of Approval and Directives have on levels and flows in boundary waters and the impacts these have on the affected interests. This includes the ongoing review and evaluation of regulation plans related to (a) the effectiveness of the existing regulation plans in managing water levels and flows in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system and the outflows of Lake Superior; (b) examining how the system may be changing over time and whether any modifications to the regulation plan may be warranted to address what is learned over time including emerging issues and/or to address changing conditions; and (c) any other questions requested by the Boards and/or IJC that may affect the Boards’ water management decisions over the long term. This GLAM Committee will undertake specific tasks to review and evaluate the regulation plans over time, focusing on mid-term to long term assessments and not within-year decisions.

Public Advisory Group

The IJC appointed a Public Advisory Group (PAG) based on nominations from the GLAM Committee. Members are leaders from shoreline associations, boating and tourism groups, environmental organizations, local governments, commercial navigation, First Nations and hydropower.

The PAG has been working to help the GLAM Committee seek potential improvements to regulation by contributing knowledge about water level impacts and input on the assessment methods. PAG members have also been asked to help foster a two-way dialogue between the GLAM Committee and affected interests and constituencies. In addition to the work being done by the PAG, the GLAM Committee is also seeking broader public comment on the Expedited Review.

The IJC and ILOSLRB are committed to listening to the concerns and needs of all stakeholders in seeking potential improvements to Plan 2014. The IJC hopes that the expedited review will help reduce the risk of coastal impacts but recognizes that no plan can prevent flooding when extremely wet conditions occur. Another hope is that the process will increase public understanding about the impacts of weather conditions, water supply, and human influences on water levels, including the limits of any regulation plan.

 GLAM's Public Advisory Group Stakeholder Report

Phase 1 PAG members and Terms of Reference

Feedback from Phase 1

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee submitted its Phase 1 Report of the Expedited Review of Plan 2014 to the International Joint Commission (IJC) in November 2021. The IJC posted the GLAM’s report for a 60-day public review and comment period from Thursday, February 17, 2022 to Monday, April 18, 2022.

Feedback received during the public comment period was considered by the IJC and shared with the GLAM Committee to inform activities for Phase 2 of the Expedited Review of Plan 2014. Following completion of Phase 2, the IJC will share its findings and recommendations from the entire Expedited Review with the governments of Canada and the United States.

Fact sheets
  • Phase 1 Overview
  • Public Advisory Group
  • Decision Support Tool
  • Key Findings
  • Planting a Relationship and Learning Towards Action with Indigenous Peoples