In the first article in this series, I looked at the 2017 flooding in Ontario, the implementation of Plan 2014, and its cost to Lake Ontario shorelines. Next, I outlined details on the plan and how it came into being within the confines of the IJC in a secretive way. I also described the 2019 flooding and the rising costs that may have elicited future law suits against the IJC (International Joint Commission) with one possibly coming from the State of New York.
Today, I will try to capture some of the impacts to communities on the shores of Lake Ontario.
The flooding occurring in the community of PEC (Prince Edward County) in 2017 resulted in the local council declaring a “state of emergency” but in 2019 they didn’t! Council’s reasoning in 2019 was that because tourism is a major economic benefit to the county, declaring an emergency could have a detrimental economic effect. Additionally, any flood-related compensation from the province would require significant expenditures by the county before becoming accessible.
PEC’s not declaring an “emergency” brought about an interesting event. A local paper, The Picton Gazette, received a letter from the Co-chairs of the ILOSTRB (International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board). The letter noted the fact that the county didn’t declare an emergency. The letter placed the blame for 2019 flood on good old “Mother Nature” and claimed Plan 2014 was not at fault. The letter said nothing about reducing water levels during the fall of 2018 or the winter of 2019 to free reservoir space for the record snowfalls, but did admit to constraint (lower out flow at the Moses- Saunders Dam) in the spring run-off, blaming it on the Ottawa River flow being at record volumes.
New York State, unlike PEC, declared a state of emergency in mid-May along the 326-mile Lake Ontario shoreline for all eight counties. It was called by Governor Cuomo. As noted in my first article, it is ironic that support for Plan 2014 came from some of the same communities now caught up in the “state of emergency”.
Back in Ontario, United Shoreline Ontario did an impressive presentation for Cobourg’s council in June 2019 which highlights what they view as some of the causes of flooding in 2017 and 2019 and strongly suggest Plan 2014 played a role. They point to how “Plan 2014 allows for “higher highs and lower lows” in the human-managed water levels of Lake Ontario.” They also note those “higher highs put Ontarians at greater risk of severe and violent flooding.” A little bit further east on the northern Lake Ontario shoreline the City of Belleville city council on June 25, 2019 “agreed to align with Prince Edward County, the City of Quinte West and Brighton in asking both governments to suspend Plan 2014.”
Belleville’s position was similar to that expressed by US politicians. As one example: In a June 18, 2019 article “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is the latest elected official who says Plan 2014, a water regulatory plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, isn’t working. He wants the International Joint Commission, a bi-national panel consisting of members from the U.S. and Canada, to reexamine the plan.” Apparently, Schumer isn’t alone as the article goes on to state: “Not only are there elected officials who agree, but business owners and residents echo calls to do something with Plan 2014.” That article also noted: “Any talk of repealing Plan 2014 has been rejected by current and former Canadian commissioners who support the plan.”
It also appears that because the flood effects are lingering, that resentment against the IJC and Plan 2014 are growing. As an example, an article on Buffalo’s NPR News Station noted: “Ask many homeowners along the southern shore of Lake Ontario and they will point to the new lake level management plan — called Plan 2014 — as the cause behind these high levels. But it’s not just residents who blame the plan. I think it’s detrimental,” said Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich. “All you gotta do is look at the shoreline and I can say that since this new plan’s put in — two out of three years, we got flooding.”
Another article on July 17, 2019 said NY Governor Cuomo has pledged US $300 million in aid that must be matched by 15% from the local community. This amount is three times state funding after the 2017 flooding. This time the money is focused on resiliency! This article was about flooding issues in Clayton, NY, a tourist area and notes in particular that “Marinas are closed, restaurants are having trouble opening up. It’s still a great place to visit, but there are still some problems.“ These are the same issues facing much of Ontario’s shorelines.
In Chapter 1 the Canadian Section Chair Gordon Walker was quoted after Plan 2014 was endorsed by outgoing US President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau stating: “We are pleased that Plan 2014 will bring system-wide improvements, with consideration of ecosystem health and recreational boating along with shoreline communities, commercial navigation and hydropower production”.
While this writer won’t opine on how the “consideration” helped “commercial navigation and hydropower production,” it is obvious that recreational boating, ecosystem health and shoreline communities have failed to see any benefits from Plan 2014. The tourism industry in both NY and Ontario has suffered badly from the two flood years and the damage to shoreline properties has cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to residential, businesses and municipalities-yet the IJC continue to defend it! They do so despite the flooding.
To be clear, the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board* must execute the directions they receive from IJC and they in turn can order OPG and the New York Power Authority to alter water flows.
They do as they are told no matter the consequences and shoreline residents, businesses and municipalities pay the price!
*”The duties of the Board shall be to ensure that the provisions of the Order relating to water levels and the regulation of the discharge of water from Lake Ontario and the flow of water through the International Rapids Section as herein set out are complied with, and Ontario Power Generation and the New York Power Authority shall duly observe any direction given them by the Board for the purpose of ensuring such compliance.”