Frequently Asked Questions
Mitigation Measure and Impacts
What types of solutions are being considered to reduce the impacts of flooding?
The Study Board is evaluating several options, categorized into four themes (see below). The study board’s recommendations may include actions from more than one theme.
Structural solutions to reduce high water levels
- Reduce water levels in the Richelieu River
Examples: remove the remnants of structures such as the eel fishing cribs and/or other fill and structures that are located on the Saint-Jean Shoal; create flood by-passes to move flood waters away from critically flood prone areas or to move water downstream faster; manage flood waters through dredging and inflatable bladders.
- Reduce inflows to Lake Champlain by storing or impeding the flow of water from contributing watersheds
Example: reclaim and manage river corridor and floodplain.
Watershed: the area of land that catches rain and snow and drains into a marsh, stream,
river, lake or groundwater.
River corridor: lands adjacent to and including the course of a river.
Floodplain: low-lying ground adjacent to a river.
Non-structural solutions to reduce the impacts of flooding
- Improving floodplain management and adaptations to flooding
Examples: improve existing or adopt new regulations, ordinances, bylaws, and laws at municipal, state, provincial, and federal levels, including consistent floodplain development standards extending beyond the 100-year floodplain; put land use restrictions in place for frequently flooded areas.
- Improving flood response plans and emergency preparedness
Examples: Improve flood forecasting models; build better flood response systems, including police, emergency management and public awareness; improve flood.
View the fact sheet describing the preliminary flood mitigation framework on our website.
How will the study make sure that recommended solutions will benefit and not harm the economy, communities and the natural environment?
The study is working to ensure that benefits of recommended solutions outweigh negative impacts through ongoing communications with stakeholders and computer modeling.
Study scientists are creating a complex computer model to assess and compare potential solutions against impacts on the economy, society and the environment.
The set of indicators within the model will assess the degree to which mitigation measures could help decrease damages to residences, businesses, infrastructure and crops, and provide improved protection to vulnerable populations. Indicators will also assess potential environmental impacts to wetlands, fish, wildlife habitats and endangered species. Potential impacts on cultural resources to indigenous populations and recreational water use will also be considered using this model, dubbed the Integrated Socio-Economic Environmental, or ISEE, model.
The study team is also discussing potential structural and non-structural actions and their impacts and benefits with the public, indigenous peoples, business owners, interest groups and municipal leaders in Quebec, New York, and Vermont to determine the level of social and political acceptability of the study’s proposed measures. Additionally, social scientists are leading a basin-wide risk assessment survey of members of the public to inform our understanding of public perception of proposed mitigation measures.
Can water from Lake Champlain be diverted to the Hudson River via the Champlain Canal to help minimize flooding in the Richelieu River?
The Hudson Diversion extends from Whitehall, New York in the South Bay area to Fort Edward over a total distance of 33.6 km (21.5 miles). The total lift is 13.3 m (43.5 ft.). The distance, lift and volume of water that would need to be pumped out to reduce water levels in Lake Champlain water levels make this alternative unfeasible.
Will the recommendations be implemented when the study is over?
The governments of Canada and the US asked the International Joint Commission to develop and recommend various mitigation measures to reduce impacts of future flooding within the basin.
The Study Board expects to deliver its final report to the International Joint Commission in 2022 after which the Commission will recommend preferred measures and implementation approaches to the two federal governments. It will then be up to governments and stakeholders to take action on these recommendations.
What is the relationship between climate change and flooding?
Scientists know that the severity of weather extremes, such as floods and droughts, is predicted to increase. Despite considerable uncertainty as to the future impacts of climate change, the study will use the best available science to factor what is currently known into decisions regarding proposed measures.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) and the Study Board
Who is the IJC?
The International Joint Commission (IJC) is a binational government organization whose focus is to protect the waters shared by Canada and the United States.
Governed by the Boundary Waters Treaty that was signed in 1909, the Commission works toward solutions that are for the common good of both countries.
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: regulating shared water uses and recommending solutions to transboundary water issues.
Who is the International Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Board?
The IJC appointed the International Lake Champlain Richelieu River Study Board in 2017 to oversee and manage a study into the causes, impacts, risks, and solutions to flooding in the International Lake Champlain and Richelieu River basin.
The Study Board has 10 members: five from Canada and five from the United States. Current membership can be found on the LCRR's website. The members bring a variety of technical expertise and knowledge to the Study Board discussions. The Study Board is assisted by two study managers, one in each country.
Water Quality in the Basin
Is the Study looking at solutions to algal blooms and other water quality issues?
Water quality is not within the scope of this study, however the IJC recognizes that water quality is a major public concern. It is currently managing a separate reference to review issues related to nutrient loading, including algal blooms in Lake Champlain, Missisquoi Bay and Lake Memphremagog as requested by the Canadian and US governments. Information on this project can be found on the IJC website.
Is there a connection between flooding and water quality?
Flooding affects the concentration of and speed at which nutrients, such as phosphorus, and contaminants, enter or move through a lake or river and across riparian areas. Water quality can be impacted when crops and urban areas are flooded.
For example, concentrations of a particular nutrient can increase or decrease depending on the volume of water available in the system, in addition to other factors, such as temperature and seasonality.
Many of the projects being carried out under the LCRR flooding reference will generate new data and knowledge about the hydraulics and hydrology of the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River system and the various uses of water. Though not central to its mandate, the Study group is working closely with the IJC to share useful information related to water quality issues.
To view other resources, please visit our Library at www.ijc.org/lcrr or click on a fact sheet below:
- Spring flooding
- Dams and reservoirs
- Preliminary flood mitigation scenarios
- Actions and impacts of flooding in the basin
- Reducing the impacts of flooding
- Real-time flood forecasting
- Performance indicators
- Social, political and economic aspects of flooding
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