Cuomo calls on IJC to mitigate flooding from Lake Ontario

Mar 30, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking the International Joint Commission to maximize outflows of water from Lake Ontario.

He sent a letter to the U.S. chair of the IJC  in advance of the commission’s scheduled decrease in outflows, which happened on Thursday.

"After the disastrous flooding situations on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River last year, it is critical that we remain vigilant and take whatever measures are necessary for ensuring that history does not repeat itself," Cuomo said.

The IJC can regulate the level of Lake Ontario to some extent by controlling the Moses Saunders dam on the St. Lawrence River. The rate of the outflow is usually reduced around this time of year, to make navigation safe for boats in the St. Lawrence River.

The  outflow of water has been at a maximum rate recently in an effort to help minimize the kind of flooding that shoreline residents saw last year, but lake levels are still about eight inches above average.

Arun Heer is secretary to the International Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River Board.  He said lake levels may rise some more, but at this point, they are still about seven inches below where they were at this time last year.

“It is forecast to rise, but that’s like a seasonal rise, but by the time April comes around, we’re talking close to average water levels here," Heer said.

Heer said the IJC is not permitted to change the rate of the outflow of water unless lake levels move outside of certain pre-determined parameters. In any case, he said even with the recent reduction in outflows, the rate of water coming out of the lake is still at a  higher level than it was at this time last year.

Cuomo said the state is taking a number of proactive steps, including deploying nearly 250,000 sandbags and other equipment to counties and towns along Lake Ontario.