IJC Commissioners meet with elected officials and tour Lake Ontario shoreline

By on June 10, 2019

The newly appointed Commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC) visited Greece on Tuesday, May 28, for a listening session with elected officials of shoreline communities across Monroe County, Niagara County, Orleans County, Wayne County, Cayuga County, and Oswego County about the impacts from high water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. This was the commissioners’ first site visit to the Lake Ontario shoreline to meet elected officials and better understand their concerns. 

During the session, the IJC members – Pierre Béland, Canadian Section Chair; Jane Corwin, US Section Chair; Robert Sisson, Commissioner; and Lance Yohe, Commissioner – heard about the devastating impacts that the high water levels have been having on these communities and also heard suggestions from representatives on how to combat the flooding. 

Following the listening session, Greece Town Supervisor William Reilich and 4th Ward Councilwoman Diana Christodaro, who represents portions of the shoreline in Greece, brought the new IJC members on a shoreline tour so they could see firsthand the flooding of roads and properties. 

“During the tour, the commissioners were able to see and experience the significant flooding of shoreline roads and properties. They saw that the tour bus was not even able to go down certain roads because the water level was so high. I am grateful that the new members of the IJC took the time to listen to our concerns and see with their own eyes the devastating impacts that the high waters have caused in our communities. I am hopeful that the new IJC commissioners will listen more to resident concerns and begin working on a plan that will alleviate flooding for both American shoreline communities and Canadian shoreline communities,” Reilich said. 

Following the tour, Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) joined a delegation of assemblymembers who represent communities impacted by flooding in writing to Governor Cuomo asking for a relief package to be implemented before the end of session. “I applaud state leaders for taking preliminary steps to mitigate flood damage, but the reality is that the lake will likely exceed 2017 water levels in the near future and sandbags and barricades are becoming useless. Securing a flood relief package is my top priority in these last few weeks of session.” 

As of June 3, Lake Ontario had reached 249.02 feet, exceeding the record peak 248.95 feet set in 2017. By mid-week, levels had begun to stabalize due to decreased precipitation and increased Lake Ontario outflows, which have been increasing rapidly as Ottawa River flows have continued to drop from their record highs this spring. The Ottawa River discharges into the St. Lawrence River and combines with the water released from Lake Ontario near Montreal. This has caused high levels in the lower St. Lawrence River, where many areas have been flooded since April.  

Lake Ontario outflows reached 353,100 cubic feet per second on June 5, close to the highest on record, and further increases are expected.

High outflows combined with forecasts of warmer, drier conditions, make it likely that Lake Ontario is at or very near its peak level this year. Any additional rise is likely to be small, less than 1 inch depending on rainfall, and there is a good chance levels will remain stable or even start to decline slowly this week.

With levels above average there remains the possibility for locally higher levels, especially during periods of active weather. Refer to local forecasts for conditions and warnings specific to your area.

To better understand impacts, members from the Board and Commissioners from the IJC will continue to tour the affected areas while conducting listening sessions with elected officials.

The Board, in conjunction with its staff, continues to monitor conditions on an ongoing basis. Information on hydrologic conditions, water levels and outflows, including graphics and photos, are available on the Board’s website www.ijc.org/en/loslrb and posted to the Board’s Facebook page.

Provided information