Collins blames IJC, as Army Corps predicts record high lake levels

May 6, 2019

Officials in Niagara and Orleans Counties are closely monitoring the rising level of Lake Ontario. If there is flooding the counties may declare states of emergency.

Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News

With the lake as a backdrop, Rep. Chris Collins, appearing Monday at Oak Orchard Harbor in Orleans County, called on Senate leaders to approve new members to the the International Joint Commission.

The IJC regulates the water level of Lake Ontario. Collins says the commission's "Plan 2014" increased the lake level one foot higher than it had been for over a century and now flooding is devastating homes and businesses along the shore.  

"If we had not done that, we wouldn't be here today. We would not have experience the flooding in 2017 and we wouldn't have sandbags showing up in 2019," Collins said.

Collins, a Clarence Republican, said President Trump's three appointments to the IJC, including former assembly member Jane Corwin, need Senate confirmation soon. He says the appointments were made over two years ago.

Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News

"We're hoping perhaps we can even get a voice vote on this. This is not controversial," Collins said.

Collins said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo are "on board" with moving the appointments to the IJC along quickly so the new commissioners can lower the lake level.

On the same day, federal officials predicted water levels will surge to record highs in some areas of the Great Lakes over the next six months.

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report released Monday said the lakes have been rising steadily for several years and are getting an extra boost as winter's melting snow mingles with recent heavy rainfall.

The Corps' Detroit district office said levels on Lake Superior and Lake Erie are expected to break records set decades ago. Records are not predicted for Lakes Michigan, Huron and Ontario, but they're still expected to rise significantly. 

One Corps hydrologist said coastal flooding and shoreline erosion will pose threats, especially during heavy storms. It is a remarkable turnaround from early this decade, when lake levels were slumping and some hit record lows.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.