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As Lake Ontario rises, IJC looks to deviate from Plan 2014 

click to enlarge A road sign warns of flooding on Edgemere Drive in Greece.

PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON

A road sign warns of flooding on Edgemere Drive in Greece.

For shoreline communities along Lake Ontario, coronavirus isn’t the only thing they have to worry about this spring.

The lake’s water level is higher than average and expected to continue to rise for weeks.

The International Joint Commission, the group that oversees lake management, has been adjusting outflows from Lake Ontario at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the Saint Lawrence River in an attempt to keep up with the inflows from the other Great Lakes.

Jane Corwin, the commission’s American co-chair, said adjusting the outflow is the only tool at the commission’s disposal, and it may not be enough to stop levels from rising.

"The system was designed to help minimize the extremes," she said in a webinar held Friday. "But honestly, if you look at the 100-year average of precipitation and lake levels, you can see there’s just so much water in the system."

Corwin and her colleagues at the IJC said they are giving their board authority to continue to deviate from the outflow limits set by the current and controversial lake level management plan, known as Plan 2014, meaning more water can be let out.
click to enlarge Lake Ontario flooding creeps close to the Schaller’s parking lot on Edgemere Drive in Greece. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Lake Ontario flooding creeps close to the Schaller’s parking lot on Edgemere Drive in Greece.
"This gives the board the freedom to make outflow decisions more quickly and above what the plan calls for when possible to lower Lake Ontario yet still providing some reduction in the severity of flooding downstream," she said.

Corwin said there is still a 50-50 chance that the lake will peak below flood levels, but there are a lot of variables.

Locally, the state’s work on REDI — the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative — is still considered an essential service during the pandemic. Dredgers, contractors, and builders are able to work on projects aimed at building a resilient shoreline.

Veronica Volk is a reporter at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. She can be reached at vvolk@wxxi.org.

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