IJC: Water levels on Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River expected to peak 'well below' record high

Apr 29, 2020

Water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are expected to peak well below the record high levels reached in 2017 and 2019.

While Lake Ontario’s water level is well above average right now, the International Joint Commission, which manages water levels in the region, said much more moderate weather should result in lower water levels in the coming months.

In a statement released Tuesday, the IJC added that water supply from the Ottawa River is more moderate this year, peaking earlier than in it did 2017 and 2019. That has allowed the commission to increase Lake Ontario outflows from the Moses-Saunders Power Dam without causing flooding downriver.

Moses-Saunders Dam
Credit RH Saunders Generating Station

Earlier this year, the IJC had warned of a 50% chance Lake Ontario rises to flood level this spring. "We may see waves pounding against docks, or against homes, and we’d also see impacts at a lot of the boat launches," said Tony David, U.S. member of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board.

This spring, some shoreline homeowners have still complained of high water and waves, especially on windy days.

Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River experienced record-high levels in 2017 and 2019, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. The flooding also created a backlash from home and business owners in the region, since the IJC's a new water management plan, Plan 2014, was put place three years ago. Two out of those three years brought severe flooding and damage to the region. 

The IJC, though, has repeatedly insisted that wet weather is to blame for the flooding, not the management plan.  

"With the expertise gained from 2017 and 2019," the IJC said in a statement released Tuesday, "the Board and its technical team pushed beyond Plan 2014’s limits to increase outflow limits and downstream water level limits beyond those previously perceived as feasible, resulting in some positive gains this winter and spring - though with plenty of help from Mother Nature too."