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Watertown Daily Times Editorial, STOP THE DELAYS: There is no reason to continue putting off Plan 2014.

June 17th, 2015 | Posted by Lee

Published: Wednesday, June 17th by the Watertown Daily Times

It’s difficult imagining that a proposal enjoying widespread support from most interested parties remains mired in bureaucratic delays.

The International Joint Commission, an agency overseeing the waterways between Canada and the United States, released and endorsed its Plan 2014 a year ago today. The proposal took about 15 years and about $20 million to develop. It would update Plan 1958-D and Plan 1958-DD, which regulate water flow in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River and have not been revised in more than 50 years.

These previous plans have resulted in serious damage to the ecosystems of these international waters, which are moderated through the release of water at the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam in Massena and Cornwall, Ontario. The proposal would make these waterways healthier and prepare for climate change by regulating the extreme high and low water levels and follow their natural, seasonal flows.

The IJC unanimously approved Plan 2014 last year and sent it to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry. But there has been no movement so far on the proposal, and it’s not known when action will be taken on it.

People living in coastal properties along the southern lakeshore, however, believe that Plan 2014 would increase the potential for flooding. With the blessing of governmental entities years ago, these property owners built homes close to the shoreline.

Their concern is understandable, but they have not offered an alternate proposal to restore the health to these waterways. They will continue to degrade if Plan 2014 is not implemented.

Representatives of the Clayton-based Save the River spoke with members of the Watertown Daily Times editorial board earlier this week. The group has strongly endorsed Plan 2014, but Executive Director D. Lee Willbanks said the proposal appears to be in limbo.

“There’s been no visible movement,” he said. “Basically, the word we get back is that the review is ongoing.”

That’s government-speak for no one wants to be first to get the ball rolling.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willboro, has voiced her support for Plan 2014 as have U.S. Sens. Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and that’s encouraging. They hopefully will be able to nudge some people out of their complacency and put this proposal into action.

Despite all the advantages that Plan 2014 has going for itself, it’s startling that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has not taken a stand as of yet. His voice is needed to call on U.S. officials to stop the delays, complete the review process and put Plan 2014 into play.

Organizations with interests tied to these waterways also must become involved. Some may be reluctant to take a stand because they view this as primarily a political issue.

It’s more than mere politics, however; it’s a matter of economic prosperity. Reversing the damage done to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River will enhance the region’s appeal to tourists, and that will result in more revenue coming into the communities along these waterways.

In addition, implementing Plan 2014 will increase water flow through the Moses-Saunders Power Dam. This will mean that more energy, and thus more revenue, is produced. Some of this extra money should be used to help mitigate potential flooding along the southern lakeshore.

There is no reason to continue putting off Plan 2014. The ecosystems of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River will continue to deteriorate until action is taken to restore their health.

Plan 2014 has solid science behind it, and is the only proposal on the table that addresses how to reverse the ecological damage done to these international waters. It’s time for Canadian and U.S. officials, along with Mr. Cuomo, to get on board.

Call Governor Cuomo today and urge him to support Plan 2014.

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