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Watertown Daily Times Endorses Plan 2014

July 31st, 2014 | Posted by Lee

Members of the International Joint Commission have completed their long-awaited proposal for revitalizing Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, unanimously endorsed it and have sent it to the U.S. and Canadian governments for approval.

The IJC’s Plan 2014 is a practical measure to make these waterways healthier and prepare for climate change. The idea is to regulate the extreme high and low water levels and follow their natural, seasonal flows.

“After years of intensive analysis and extensive consultation with governments, experts, Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River interests, and the public, the IJC concludes that a new approach to regulating the flows and levels of the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, Plan 2014, should be implemented as soon as possible,” according to the executive summary of Plan 2014.

“The IJC finds that the regulation of water levels and flows in the St. Lawrence River in accordance with the 1952 and 1956 Orders of Approval has damaged ecosystems along the coast of Lake Ontario and upper St. Lawrence River over the last 50 years or more,” the executive summary said. “The effects of the regulation of water flows and lake levels on ecosystems were not fully understood or considered when the existing Order of Approval and regulation plan were developed. However, robust coastal ecosystems are now recognized as essential in both countries, and the IJC finds that the effects on ecosystems should now be considered along with effects to other interests and uses.”

Plan 2014 would improve the ecological quality of the waterways and restore fish populations. The IJC has revised its proposal over the years to restore the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and members believe that Plan 2014 is the best way to move forward.

Under most circumstances, the IJC may enact its own Orders of Approval. But the flows of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are moderated through the release of water at the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam in Massena and Cornwall. Since the applications to operate the dams were made by the U.S. and Canadian governments, they are the entities that must approve Plan 2014 for it to be implemented.

The IJC’s proposal has been met with concerted opposition by residents of coastal properties along the southern lakeshore, who are concerned about potential flooding should water levels fluctuate in a wider range. What these opponents seem to forget is that they built houses very close to the water’s edge, based on provisions in the IJC’s Plan 1958-D and Plan 1958-DD.

Many of these residents believe the environmental benefits have been exaggerated, arguing that the real goal here is to generate more power at the hydroelectric dam and, thus, increase profits. IJC officials agree that altering the water levels will increase the output at the dam.

But they’ve collected data for years on the effects of changing the water levels, and the science is solidly in their favor. Doing nothing will allow damage to shoreline sand dunes, wetland spawning grounds for native fish and homes for millions of shore birds that has been underway for more than 50 years to continue. That helps no one including those who built too close to the high water line.

Just as the IJC does not have the authority to unilaterally implement Plan 2014, it also has no way of mandating flood mitigation. That would be up to either New York state or the U.S. government. Both governmental entities should act on Plan 2014 soon, and flood mitigation should be part of the solution.

This environmentally positive plan provides the state with a continuous flow of cash from increased power generation at Massena to underwrite specific, justified flood mitigation issues for those property owners who live in the lakeside suburbs of Rochester and along Ontario’s southern shore.

Published by Watertown Daily Times on July 31st on watertowndailytimes.com
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