IJC, regulators of Lake Ontario water levels, to hold emergency meeting

Local News

Members of the International Joint Commission are planning an emergency meeting to address high water levels on Lake Ontario. Rep. Chris Collins, who represents much of the lakeshore, says it will occur “in the next day or so”.

As of Tuesday, the lake’s surface was at a record height of 249.07 feet above sea level. More water is being let out of the lake at the Moses-Saunders Dam than ever before. It is the second time in three years lakeshore communities have flooded.

Collins says the meeting will have two agenda items.

“One is can we get more water out of Lake Ontario today?” he said. “Then the second piece is what do we do moving forward? For five years, I’ve been saying Plan 2014 is a disaster.”

Plan 2014 is the controversial plan used by the IJC to regulate Lake Ontario’s water levels. It has been in effect since December 2016. Prior to that, the commission used Plan 1958-DD.

“Everything here is built according to (Plan 1958-DD),” said Newfane Town Supervisor Tim Horanburg. “That was in existance for 60-some years.”

Opponents of Plan 2014 say Plan 1958-DD allowed for more water to be released earlier in the year. But there is still uncertainty about how the three new Canadian IJC commissioners would feel about that.

“No plan would be able to produce a situation where nobody is getting flooded,” Canadian Chairman Pierre Béland said in May.

An IJC spokesperson said for any suspension of or changes to Plan 2014, the six commissioners would need to reach a consensus on a recommendation. Any final decisions would then be made by the U.S. and Canadian governments.

Even if the water were to begin going down right now, much of the damage has already been done. Olcott Beach has already been closed for the year. And now, Horanburg says the town’s Independence Eve fireworks display is in jeopardy.

Those fireworks are usually shot off from a pier that is currently underwater. ‘Plan B’ would be to shoot them off from a different pier. However, access to that pier is currently flooded.

“It brings all the people down here,” Horanburg said of the display. “People come down and eat, spend time here and stay for the fireworks. It would be another business loss.”

Horanburg added town officials are doing everything they can to make sure the show can go on.

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