In the past three years we have seen record high and low water levels on the St. Lawrence River. These fluctuations have had an adverse affect on wildlife, residents, and industry across the region. The financial costs of these highs and lows are in the billions of dollars.They have led to flooding along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence shoreline, shipping restrictions for vessels transiting the St. Lawrence-Seaway, and tourism operators flooded out, or grounded out, of their businesses. Residents have been forced to repair their homes, and have been unable to use their docks and watercraft. There has been no happy medium to water levels in recent years: there won’t be for the foreseeable future.
High water levels throughout the Great Lakes system have set new seasonal records. All indications point to more flooding and high water levels for much of 2020.
Politicians from all levels have called on the International Joint Commission to solve this problem by fixing their management plan, known as Plan 2014. That plan took over a decade to develop and was intended to balance residential, commercial, and industrial use of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River with ecological factors.
The politicians’ “fix” has been to call for more representation from the region at the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River board, the board that implements Plan 2014.
Besides fixing the plan, politicians have also called for more local representation at the ILOSLR to ensure local input when decisions are made. Both are good ideas.
Currently that board is comprised of civil servants and and scientists, the experts if you will. Local representatives should be added not only for the Lake Ontario area as suggested by Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, but also for the St. Lawrence River/Lake St. Lawrence area.
Our region, stretching from the 1000 Islands to Cornwall, faces similar yet different challenges from those on Lake Ontario. Lake St. Lawrence and the river west past Iroquois sees more variations of water levels on a daily basis than points upstream. Our perspective needs to be seen and heard at the board.
Fixing Plan 2014 will take more work. The best way to move forward is to ensure that not just scientists and civil servants make decisions, but that our communities are also part of the solution.