IJC Chair says Lake Ontario will flood again - doesn't know when

Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-17 19:18:31-04

It has been a very difficult year for people living along Lake Ontario as high water levels have caused millions in damage to property and lost business.  Many blame the International Joint Commission (IJC) which approved "Plan 2014" allowing higher water levels on the lake.  The plan went into effect in January 2017.

During a visit to Buffalo, 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly spoke directly with Lana Pollack, Chair for the U.S. Section of the IJC.

Pollack said "Plan 2014" did not fail and that it was record rainfall and climate change that caused the flooding.  "With climate change, there is no plan that will change this.  We have to learn to adapt to it."

However, Pollack said the IJC is very aware of the destruction caused by the high water levels with a committee of experts now reviewing 2017 flooding data to see if adjustments should be made to "Plan 2014."  That report is expected to be finished by next Spring.

Water levels on Lake Ontario are controlled by the outflow through the Moses-Saunders Hydroelectric dam on the St. Lawrence River.

During a presentation at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Buffalo, IJC representatives argued that if it were left to Mother Nature to control the levels on Lake Ontario, the flooding would be much worse because of 20-year cycles for extreme flooding.

"Plan 2014" took years to develop and was meant to replace plan "1958DD" which kept levels too low.

Could shoreline residents experience more flooding in the future?  Pollack said climate change and weather patterns most certainly guarantee it.  “When? I certainly don’t know,” added Pollack.

When “Plan 2014” was adopted, it was hoped the higher lake levels would help wetlands, boaters, fishermen, and hydroelectric production.

Recommendations for changes, if they are made, could take time to implement because both the U.S. and Canadian governments have to agree on modifications to the plan.