Lake Ontario is 2' lower this season than last

Sep 1, 2020

Lake Ontario is around 2' lower than last year at this time, a relief for those who live on the periphery. With summer nearing an end, the International Joint Commission, which manages lake outflows, will allow Lake St. Lawrence levels to decline to the normal navigation season minimum following the September long weekend. This decision will allow for slightly more water to be released from Lake Ontario during the fall.

WBFO's Mike Desmond spoke with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District Public Affairs Chief Andrew Kornacki about the plans.

DESMOND: It sounds as if you're trying to almost lower the the St. Lawrence River substantially below flood stage because of concern about whatever next winter might show up.

KORNACKI: Well, so Plan 2014 constantly looks at various levels across the system, Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River system, and tries to balance those impacts out and reduce the amount of impact to any one of those, those users of the waterways and the system itself. So there's something that's always in the back of back of the mind of Plan 2014, right? Trying to balance all of these uses for the waterway system, but also balance all the impacts of either high water or low water or how much water has been released out of the dam or how much water is on Lake St. Lawrence at any given time.

So the plan is constantly looking at all of these things, and the board members that manage that are constantly talking to these stakeholders and understanding the impacts of what's happening and what they see on the ground. And, you know, slight changes can be made, but again, at the end of the day, Mother Nature does the same, what the water is going to do and what the water levels are going to do on Lake Ontario.

DESMOND: How much can you lower Lake Ontario if a lot of water's coming out of Lake Erie?

KORNACKI: Well, that's something that Plan 2014 looks at, right? So on all of the Great Lakes this year, except Lake Ontario, they had reached either near-record peaks or they reached a record peak. Lake Ontario was no exception. So this year, Lake Erie reached a level that was very high and there are no restrictions on the water that comes out of Lake Erie down the Niagara into Lake Ontario, except how much water can actually move through the Niagara River. So Plan 2014 is always looking at how much water is coming down the Niagara River and is flowing into Lake Ontario.

And so people might think, "Well, you know, Lake Ontario is getting to a good level, flows are gonna start being drawn back and things are gonna go back to normal." That is somewhat the case, but with Lake Erie pushing so much water down the Niagara River into Lake Ontario. Plan 2014 is going to look at that and say, "Hey, we still have high supplies." We're going to still need to push a good amount of water out of the Lake Ontario system.