Oct 22, 2020

High WaterThe International Joint Commission (IJC) is reviewing Plan 2014 and could use your help. The plan spells out how much water is released from Lake Ontario through the St. Lawrence River. A 2020 questionnaire is now available for people to provide information on the impacts of high water levels.

To design Plan 2014, experts in many different fields worked together for years in open public processes. Different plans were tested with computer models of water levels and impacts. The governments of Canada and the United States agreed with the IJC’s analysis and recommendations before the plan went into effect in 2017.

The IJC and both governments also agreed to monitor how different water levels affect shoreline communities, economic interests and the environment. If these real-world impacts were not consistent with what models projected, the IJC would then improve the models to reflect new data on what occurred. This is an example of what is known as adaptive management.

Monitoring Outcomes, Making Adjustments

A binational Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee (GLAM) was created in 2015 to guide the adaptive management process.

If improved computer models suggest better ways to regulate lake levels, the GLAM Committee presents the evidence and new ideas to the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which oversees the operation of the regulation plan, and they decide what to recommend to the IJC.

The governments set a 15-year window for this review, but record high water levels on Lake Ontario in 2017 and 2019 caused substantial shoreline damage, spurring governments to fund an expedited review process for Plan 2014, which started in February 2020.

The expedited review began by collecting information to help the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board make decisions when it has authority to deviate from the plan under extreme high-water conditions (see “Sidebar: Regulation Doesn’t Prevent Flooding” at the end of this article).

Early this year, information from the review supported a decision to delay the start of navigation in the Montreal-Lake Ontario portion of the St. Lawrence Seaway. This enabled the board to sustain higher outflows that lowered Lake Ontario by an additional 3.5 centimeters (1.4 inches).

Currently, the GLAM Committee’s expedited review is gathering information on the socio-economic and environmental impacts experienced along shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, particularly in 2017 and 2019, along with impacts to other interests such as Seaway navigation.

The initial data will help GLAM members inform the board and IJC on how the regulation of Lake Ontario water outflows during extreme conditions affects shoreline properties and community investments upstream and downstream of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam.

This information can help the board with deviation decisions as early as spring 2021 if Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are again faced with high water levels. After 2021, the expedited review will provide a comprehensive assessment of Plan 2014 under the full range of water supply conditions. 
GLAM Board IJC Decision Process

Engaging Stakeholders

In 2020, the IJC appointed a Public Advisory Group (PAG) to help the GLAM Committee review Plan 2014.

The PAG members are knowledgeable and committed, some have been critical of the IJC, and the group represents different and sometimes conflicting interests from the Great Lakes system.
PAG members have access to the same information as the GLAM Committee, but provide what GLAM does not have: the perspective of people directly affected by water levels in various ways.
In creating the GLAM Committee, the IJC recognized the importance of being flexible as the regulation plans are implemented and took the step to challenge and monitor its decisions to see if it’s possible to do better over time.

We’d like to hear from you. Please take a few minutes to share your observations, experiences and photos about the impacts of high water levels by filling out the questionnaire.

Sidebar: Regulation Doesn’t Prevent Flooding

Water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River affect a range of interests, including shoreline property and infrastructure, recreational boating and tourism, commercial navigation, hydropower production and the ecosystem. Any plan for regulating Lake Ontario outflows attempts to set outflows in a way that fairly balances the effects on these interests.

When inflows to the lake and river are extraordinarily high because of extreme weather conditions and the resulting increased water supply, as they were in 2017 and 2019, flooding and other coastal impacts cannot be avoided by any plan for regulating outflow. So, while regulation of Lake Ontario outflows has reduced flood peaks and moderated the effects of extreme water supplies, one must remember that flooding on the Great Lakes is caused by natural conditions that for the most part cannot be predicted or controlled.

When extreme conditions occur, the IJC’s Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board has the authority to deviate from the rules of Plan 2014 to increase or decrease outflows.

The board’s priority then is to provide all possible relief to shoreline communities upstream and downstream of control works in the St. Lawrence River. Members also must consider that high flows can affect navigation safety and the formation of ice jams in the river, and how these risks compare to the amount of relief that can be provided to shoreline communities.

These are difficult decisions that must be made without knowing whether storms will roll across different parts of the basin or how other uncertainties may play out. The GLAM Committee is working to ensure that the board has the best possible information on how different water levels and flow rates can affect shoreline communities and other interests.

Note – this is a reprint of an article that ran in the October issue of the IJC’s Great Lakes Connection

Related Articles

Tuesday, 19 November 2019 18:54

This is an urgent message from several News Week readers that action needs to be taken immediately, to lower the water levels in the Great Lakes. The International Joint Commission (IJC) is the body...

Tuesday, 11 June 2019 19:38

Boat Launch ramps (CYOB May 23); it is not the first time that there has been some serious errors have been committed on a boat launch ramp. A google image search will prove that. Some are grimacing...

Wednesday, 07 June 2017 07:45

Ashbridge’s Bay Yacht Club hosted the opening regatta of the 2017 Lake Ontario Racing Council season May 27 and 28. It was a challenge...      

Wednesday, 22 May 2019 01:31

The International Lake Ontario - Saint Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB): Lake Ontario outflows continue to be adjusted to balance high water levels.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 03:11

Eighty-five percent of Great Lakes citizens believe protecting the Great Lakes is highly important, according to one of the largest surveys ever conducted on public perception of the world’s largest...

Thursday, 07 March 2013 15:01

People who are seeking solutions to Georgian Bay’s low water level should be petitioning the International Joint Commission (IJC) set up for that task, said a representative for Simcoe North...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.


Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................


Cruisers Yachts 42 GLSBy Andy Adams

Once again, Cruisers Yachts is leading the market for day boats with their new 42 GLS model that premiered at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show at the end of October. The concept of a large day boat is now a very well-established trend made possible by the amazing new power and efficiency of the latest four stroke outboards.

Buyers are looking for a different boating experience and we think that the 42 GLS nails it. Fast, handsome and versatile, the 42 GLS is designed for fun and adventure.

Read More


Bahamas - There and Back Again IIIn Part I, Sheryl Shard ended the story at June and the start of Hurricane Season when they were once again joined by friends.

This time it was Noel and Tracey Dinan, whose new shallow-draft Allures 49.5 was in build at the time, we headed north from the Exumas across the expanse of the Great Bahama Bank, dodging coral patches as we sailed to Eleuthera then Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco. Another commercial centre in the islands, we cleared out of the Bahamas here after provisioning for our offshore passage up to the Chesapeake Bay on the US mainland and out of the Hurricane Zone until mid-November...

Read More

WinterizationBy Andrew McDonald, Lakeside Marine Services

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to”, is a phrase that many of us are familiar with. Most of the time it is in reference to a bygone era of better, and it’s used to lament the sorry state of what we have today. It is a phrase that can be applied to many areas of our lives: architecture, art, furniture, tools. Boats? I would argue that they don’t make them like they used to. But, is that lamentable, or is it progress?

Progress, I think. With this concept in mind, as we enter another season of putting boats to bed for the winter, why do we winterize as we always have?

Read More