Lake Ontario Flooding

By on June 10, 2019

There have been three major flooding events on Lake Ontario. They occurred in 1952, 1973 and 2017. All were man-made or substantially man-made. The latest control plan, Plan 2014, issued at the end of 2016, has placed the lake in jeopardy not only today but also in the future. Plan 2014 must be repealed and replaced.  

In 1952 the water level of Lake Ontario reached an all-time high of about 248.5 feet above sea level because of the Gut Dam. For the first time in recorded history the South Shore of Lake Ontario experienced devastating flooding. The Gut Dam was removed and the South Shore U.S. residents sued the Canadian Government and won.

Presently control Plan 2014 has replaced the previous plan 1958DD. Taking the 1952 high and asserting that it’s a natural occurrence is bogus data. Plan 2014 Criteria H4 has the highest monthly mean level of Lake Ontario at a shall not exceed 248.46 feet for the month of May. But April, June and July are also above 248. Repeating, 248 is a man-made high, not the new normal.

A reasonable estimate of the 2017 damage levied upon the New York shoreline of Lake Ontario by Control Plan 2014 is in excess of one and a half billion dollars. What will be the 2019 flood results?


The general outline for a replacement plan is as follows:

1. Go back to the natural 4-foot cycle range of 242 to 246 feet above sea level.

2. Develop anticipatory control algorithms to deal with input water supply fluctuations from the upper lakes. For example, the time constant from Lakes Michigan and Huron to Lake Ontario is about one year. That means the water levels seen on these upper lakes will appear on Lake Ontario one year later. By monitoring and reacting to these lake levels, Lake Ontario can accommodate the increases or decreases in supply and avoid flooding. 

3. Improve the monitoring and prediction of local basin water supply.

4. Significantly increase response time to changes in outflow from Lake Ontario to minimize both downstream and shoreline flooding. This means, improve the speed and quality of IJC decisions. 

These are logical conclusions. There must be a serious and quick response to the repeal and replacement of Plan 2014.

Gary B. Gustafson, P.E.

51-year resident on Lake Ontario

Survivor of 1973, 2017 and ongoing 2019 flooding