As water levels along the shore of Lake Ontario continue to rise, newly appointed International Joint Commission members are visiting impacted areas to see things firsthand.
IJC members for both Canada and the U.S. were appointed just a few weeks ago. They have a lot to catch up on. Lake Ontario water levels are expected to meet or exceed the 2017 record high numbers that caused $100 million in damage.
Plan 2014 allows for the lake to have greater highs and lows. Shoreline residents and their public officials are pointing to the plan as the main problem. U.S. Chair Jane Corwin said it’s more complex than that.
“We’re in the process of learning that,” Corwin said. “I think it’s a good first step for getting more information on understanding exactly the impacts that are going on.”
Plan 2014 took over a decade and a half to put together. Corwin said it’s not changing in the immediate future.
“It took a long time to do it. It would take a long time to undo it quite frankly,” she said.
Corwin said they have seen brief periods of higher levels in the past and are unsure if this is a trend or not.
“Undoing Plan 2014 at this moment isn’t going to fix the problem that we’re facing right now. We’ve got very high water levels in the upper Great Lakes as well as in Lake Ontario and all that water is coming this way.”
Canadian Chair Pierre Beland said the board has been increasing the flow out of Lake Ontario and hope things will start to die down over the next few weeks. Montreal is expected to have continued flooding during that time.
“In situations of very high supply from above, from Lake Erie, from Lake Superior, no plan would be able to produce a situation where nobody is getting flooded,” Beland said.
Beland said climate change may also be a factor.
“What we don’t know, is what climate change will do specifically on the Great Lakes. Particularly on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Montreal area,” Beland said. “What our study group is doing, is trying to find out how we can make predictions. Finding out whether what we’ve been saying over the last three years is going to be the new norm, or will we have increased variability, or will we go back to normal?”
Beland said their research is ongoing and that normally you cannot expect to understand a trend without looking at ten years of data.