IJC reaffirms Plan 2014 for Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River


IJC reaffirms Plan 2014 for Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River

Continues protections from extreme water levels, restores wetlands and prepares for a changing future

The International Joint Commission (IJC) today announced that Plan 2014 is the preferred option for regulating water levels and flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.  Plan 2014 provides more natural water level fluctuations while reducing the damage from extreme high and low water-level events to nearly the same extent as the current plan.

Plan 2014 helps protect all users from extreme water levels, provides for the largest wetland restoration project in the region, and prepares for a changing Great Lakes future.

The IJC concludes that Plan 2014 should be implemented as soon as possible. The plan will continue to foster conditions contributing to the economic well-being of communities throughout the basin while improving the long-term ecological health of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River. After thorough study and consideration of the issues raised during public hearings, the IJC has provided a report to the governments of the United States and Canada on Regulation of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and seeks their views and concurrence with the new management plan.

Plan 2014 was endorsed unanimously by IJC Commissioners Benoit Bouchard, Dereth Glance, Rich Moy, Lana Pollack and Gordon Walker.  It comes after analyzing a half-century of experience with the existing regulatory plan, and 14 years of analysis, study and public input.

"We have considered not only the advice of scientists and engineers, but also listened to a great deal of public input from home owners, boaters, shippers and the people who live on and use these waters," said U.S. Section Chair Pollack.

"We have considered thousands of alternatives, and done the best we can to accommodate the very legitimate needs of all stakeholders. It is time to report our conclusions and move forward with a new plan," said Canadian Section Chair Walker.

Extensive field work and analysis during the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study demonstrated that the current regulation plan has harmed ecosystem health by substantially degrading 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of shoreline wetlands. After exhaustive consideration of alternative plans, the IJC has concluded that Plan 2014 offers the best opportunity to reverse some of the harm done while balancing upstream and downstream uses and minimizing damage to shoreline protection structures.

Outflows from the Moses-Saunders hydropower dam, located on the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York, influence water levels and flows on Lake Ontario and as far downstream as Lake St. Pierre. Water levels and flows are predominantly affected by natural factors such as precipitation, evaporation, ice jams and wind. However, regulation of flows at the dam has provided major benefits in the form of reduced flooding, storm damage and erosion on the Lake Ontario shoreline; reduced flooding downstream; and more favorable conditions on the lake and river for water intakes, recreational boating, commercial navigation and hydroelectric power production.

The IJC approved the construction of the Moses-Saunders hydropower dam in 1952 and established criteria for managing flows in 1956. Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, the IJC ensures that the operation of the dam does not conflict with water uses for drinking supply and sanitation, commercial navigation, and other hydropower plants. The IJC also makes provisions to protect all affected interests from being injured by the operation of the dam, including upstream and downstream coastal communities, recreational boating and the natural environment.

In response to a 1952 request from the two federal governments, the IJC made provisions to compress the natural range of water level fluctuations to benefit coastal communities on Lake Ontario. At that time, no consideration was given to the impacts on natural resources including the coastal wetlands that act as the kidneys of the Great Lakes by filtering pollutants, and by providing critical habitat to many species of amphibians, birds, mammals and fish.

The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share.  Its responsibilities include considering applications for projects that affect the natural levels and flows of boundary waters.

For more information, visit the Commission's website at www.ijc.org.




Nick Heisler          Ottawa   heislern@ottawa.ijc.org   613-992-8367

Frank Bevacqua    Washington   bevacquaf@washington.ijc.org   202-736-9024

Sarah Lobrichon    French language   lobrichons@ottawa.ijc.org   613-992-5368