Clayton, NY, January 19, 2012 - It's been more than a decade since the International Joint Commission conducted a study to come up with a new plan for water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Now it appears the decision is just days away. But as As seen in this clip from Syracuse, NY-based Your News Now, Brian Dwyer reports, no major decision like this comes without some controversy.
Hundreds of people from Northern New York took part in a public hearing back in 2008 in Alexandria Bay. They were speaking out on what would be the first new water level plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence in more than 50 years.
"It's seen by many as a plan that's pretty good," New York Sea Grant's Dave White said of the 1958 plan.
"Obviously some environmental issues, obviously some concerns by riparians and boaters and others. That's why the new plan is being looked at to really try and accommodate all the user groups."
The International Joint Commission hosting those hearings in 2008 trying to push a plan called 2007D. But it became quickly apparent the North Country wanted nothing to do with it, most saying it would destroy the ecosystem.
And now just days before it's set to release its new choice, word has come out the IJC now favors a more environmentally friendly plan.
"Back in 2007-2008, we were not pleased with what the IJC was putting forward and they did. They listened to community input and we greatly appreciate that," Save the River Executive Director Jennifer Caddick said.
The expected new choice will be called Plan BV7, a variation of the widely publicized Plan B+ that was what the North County wanted four years ago.
"What that does is just try to restore the flow to a more natural regime, more like what mother nature intended," Caddick added about the new plan she was introduced to in the fall. "It would slightly raise the water levels at certain times throughout the year to allow fish and other animals access to important wetland areas."
But not everyone is thrilled. A group based in Western New York, L.O.R.A., the Lake Ontario Riparian Alliance, says the higher levels with BV7 will cause millions of dollars in erosion damage to property owners. It's already preparing to fight against it.
Dave White says no matter what side of the fence you sit, you need to read the plan in full when it's released and then let the IJC know what you think.
"Getting involved now and being able to provide that input by talking about the mitigation measures that have to put in place for some of the user groups and talking about the adaptive management that may have to occur as we move forward with concerns about whether anomalies happen like we're having this year and other issues are really going to be critically important," he said.
The IJC is expected to host public hearings on the plan in the early part of spring.
White says reading the plan in full is especially important for those who spend their winters out of state because its likely news of the exact details announcement won't easily reach that far south.
Update from IJC - January 30, 2012:
The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released information about a new approach to manage water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River system. Details of the approach are available at www.ijc.org/LOSLR
Building on 50 years of experience, a five-year binational study and extensive public comment, the IJC is developing a new approach with the assistance of a Working Group of representatives from the governments of Canada, the United States, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and the State of New York.
The flow of water from Lake Ontario down the St. Lawrence River is regulated by the Moses-Saunders Dam in accordance with the IJC's 1956 order of approval. The current regulation plan moderates extreme high and low water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. However, it is based on conditions of the last century, does not take the environment into account, and has no process for adapting to future challenges such as bigger storms and more severe droughts.
While continuing to moderate extreme high and low water levels, the new approach would allow for more natural water levels and flow patterns and is expected to produce significant environmental improvements. An Adaptive Management strategy would improve the capability to adapt to future changes, including socio-economic changes and significant changes in climate throughout the system.
The IJC welcomes public input on the new approach. The IJC will host online forums, and it will hold public information sessions around the basin in late spring 2012. Written comments on the new approach may be submitted via the LOSLR Web site or sent by regular mail or email to any of the following addresses:
International Joint Commission: U.S. Section / 2000 L Street, NW / Suite #615 / Washington, DC 20440