Expired News - Floods along Canadian waterway to rise if U.S. politics wins - The Weather Network
Your weather when it really mattersTM


Please choose your default site


Asia - Pacific


As communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River remain on alert due to flooding, it's not the potential for rain in the forecast, but a possible cross-border dispute between Canada and the U.S., that has been causing renewed concerns.
OUT OF THIS WORLD | Earth, Space and Everything In-Between - a daily journey through weather, space and science with meteorologist/science writer Scott Sutherland

Floods along Canadian waterway to rise if U.S. politics wins

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 1:10 PM - As communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River remain on alert due to flooding, it's not the potential for rain in the forecast, but a possible cross-border dispute between Canada and the U.S., that has been causing renewed concerns.

With all the rain that's fallen across Ontario and Quebec so far this spring, it may not be surprising to see higher than normal water levels on Lake Ontario, and to hear about the significant flooding along the St. Lawrence, but as it turns out, this isn't just about the recent weather.

According to NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Laboratory, as of the month of April, Lake Ontario water levels have been around 60 centimetres above average for this time of year. That is the highest they've reached in since 1998, and they are expected to rise even higher through May and June before falling off again afterward.

Current water levels in the lake are a product of the several factors. The rain that has fallen so far this spring, including the latest bouts, have certainly contributed. Runoff from the spring melt also plays a large role. For full disclosure as to why there is so much water currently in the lake, however, one has to take into account the conditions further downstream, and what may be the focal point of a brewing cross-border political battle involving New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, local New York politicians, the Canada-U.S. International Joint Commission (IJC) and possibly even U.S. President Donald Trump.

Why a possible political battle over Lake Ontario water levels, something that would seem to be governed by nature, rather than politics? Because the amount of water that discharges out of the lake has been under human control since 1960, at the direction of the IJC's International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, and via Cornwall's Moses-Saunders Power Dam.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board has been following a carefully considered set of rules for water discharge for decades now, which has governed how water is discharged from the Dam ever since it was built, and these rules have been updated by the Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014 (a.k.a. Plan 2014), which came into effect in January of 2017.

These rules have been in place to keep the waters of Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence River at levels that are consistent with historical records, to ensure that shipping lanes remain open and accessible, that wetland ecology is preserved, that the waterways remain available for recreational use, and that waterside communities are protected - as well as possible - from the impacts of flooding due to severe weather.

The problem, as it stands now, is that communities along the shores of Lake Ontario have been under flood watches and warnings for some time now, as the elevated water levels inundate beaches, properties and roadways. Reacting to this, politicians in New York State, some of whom have opposed Plan 2014 for years, are saying that the plan is to blame for the flooding in their communities.

"Plan 2014 has been an utter disaster for Lake Ontario taxpayers and communities since it was approved in the final minutes of the Obama Administration," New York Congressman Chris Collins said in a statement on April 25. "Both the property damage and overflow of debris into Lake Ontario that I inspected today could have been avoided. I came here today to assure local officials and Lake Ontario homeowners that I am working with the Trump Administration to reform the IJC and repeal Plan 2014 as soon as possible."

“With the implementation of Plan 2014, we will continue to see magnified, drastic changes in water levels and property owners in shoreline communities across Wayne County will be left with no guaranteed compensation." said NY Congressman John Katko, in a joint statement with Congressman Collins. "Together with Rep. Collins, I’ve fought against Plan 2014 from the start and this week we’ve urged the administration to permanently withdraw from Plan 2014 to avoid further damage."

On May 2, Congressman Collins announced on his website that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, after visiting affected areas along the shores of Lake Ontario, had joined his fight against Plan 2014.

According to the Toronto Star, however, Frank Bevacqua, a spokesman for the International Joint Commission, said that water levels on the lake would have been nearly identical under Plan 1958DD, the set of rules that was in place before Plan 2014 took effect. The reason for the elevated waters now this isn't which water control plan is in effect, but rather the conditions on the St. Lawrence and in Lac Saint-Louis, downstream of Lake Ontario.

Over the past week, the Ottawa River has reached a historic peak, as swollen tributaries along its length caused the river to rise, water levels in Lac Saint-Louis have exceeded the previous maximum for this time of year, and all of that water has joined together as these waterways drained into the St. Lawrence River, it has caused record flooding in the city of Montreal.

While the recent rainfall did play a role in all of this, waterways throughout eastern Ontario and southern Quebec had already been running at elevated levels, due to a combination of the rainfall totals so far this season, along with runoff, as the significant winter snowfall totals across these regions succumbed to the warmer spring weather.

At the moment, the discharge from the Moses-Saunders Dam is reportedly below average, but any increase to that discharge rate, right now, would be a disaster for communities downstream, including metropolitan Montreal.

As of last Friday, the State of New York submitted a request to the IJC to increase the flow of water from Lake Ontario, but by Monday, according to the Montreal Gazette, the board had rejected the request after weighing the impacts to the lake shore communities against the potential impacts downstream.

"We are going to be starting to ramp up as soon as the Ottawa River starts to go down," Gail Faveri, Canadian secretary for the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, told the Gazette.

Sources: International Joint Commission | House.gov | Toronto Star | Globe and Mail | Montreal Gazette

Watch Below: Catch an aerial view of the flood waters inundating Quebec communities along the St. Lawrence River

Default saved

Search Location


Sign In

Please sign in to use this feature.