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Lake Ontario Water Levels: NYSG Connects Local Stakeholders/Regulators to Strengthen Decision Making
Publications: Success Stories - Extension (2022)

A Lake Ontario property inundated in 2017; (Inset) data chart projecting inundation along the Lake and the St. Lawrence River. Credit: Mary Austerman/NYSG


Mary Austerman, NYSG Great Lakes Coastal Community Specialist, E: mp357@cornell.edu, P: (315) 331-8415

New York Sea Grant is helping decision-makers respond to climate change impacts that are creating water level extremes in Lake Ontario, threatening the sustainability of waterfront communities.

Newark, NY, August 10, 2022 - Lake Ontario outflows are regulated in accordance to Plan 2014, by the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) International Lake Ontario–St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB), primarily though the Moses-Saunders dam. The ILO-SLRB may deviate from the rules of Plan 2014 under specific conditions, such as the high-water extremes during 2017 and 2019. Water levels continue to be a contentious topic among coastal stakeholders. Localized data is needed to allow better informed decisions related to water management.

Given New York Sea Grant’s (NYSG) credibility and long-standing relationships with waterfront communities, NYSG coordinated and co-facilitated a meeting with the IJC Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee (GLAM), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and decisionmakers from priority communities to review the data used to define “Impact Zones” for use in the ILO-SLRB Decision Support Tool.

As a result of this work, aspects of the support tool are improved. Specifically, the NY impact zones were verified and, in some cases, improved; e.g., expanding Sodus Point to include the barrier bar and additional portions of the Sodus Bay shoreline. A potential new impact zone based on local input related to North (Sandy) Pond was identified.

The creation of the ILO-SLRB Decision Support Tool, with verified local data, supports the ability to make better-informed decisions related to water outflow deviations. Enhanced communication as a result of the process used by NYSG to engage the IJC GLAM and local stakeholders is expected to positively impact future interactions.

Project Partners:

• International Joint Commission Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee
• U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

“NYSG was instrumental in connecting the IJC GLAM committee with leaders in impacted communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline. These communities are among the most sensitive areas when water levels are high and their input to the Decision Support Tool will improve the available information when the International Lake Ontario-St Lawrence River Board considers deviations during periods of extremely high-water levels.” — Christopher Warren, P.E., Hydraulic Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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