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Adam Interviews Frank Sciremammano

Adam Interviews

The board that governs Lake Ontario’s water level no longer has Western New York representation since the removal of mechanical engineer Frank Sciremammano, who lives in Brighton.

Sciremammno had served on the Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board for more than two decades.

He opposed Plan 2014, which is the new set of rules that determines how much water is released from Ontario.

That plan came under attack in Western New York last spring during devastating flooding along the lake shore.

While Sciremammano opposed the plan, he remained adamant the flooding was not the result of the new rules.

The International Joint Commission, or IJC, oversees the board and told Sciremammano recently his term would not be renewed.

Here’s part of the conversation between Adam Chodak and Sciremammano:

Adam: Why do you think the IJC let you go?

Sciremammano: In my mind this was clearly related to my criticism of the IJC over the decision to implement Plan 2014.

Adam: The folks over on the IJC side say you’ve been critical for the last decade and they’ve appreciated that. Is that true and, if so, what changed?

Sciremammano: In 2017 the plan went into effect and ever since then they really wanted people to get in line in my opinion. They came up with top line stories that we were supposed to repeat and didn’t really like any criticism of Plan 2014. And while the IJC said they didn’t mind my criticism, I got yelled at by the IJC chair from the US side one night. So they clearly did not like the fact that I was pointing out the deficiencies in Plan 2014 and the fact that it really disadvantages Lake Ontario.

(The IJC responded to this claim saying, “Chair Pollack had two conversations with Dr. Sciremammano, which were civil and cordial. She did not raise her voice and did not take him to task for criticizing Plan 2014.”)

Adam: But you were were one of the folks out there saying the flooding from last year was not related to the plan.

Sciremammano: That’s right. And we would have flooded anyway and I’ve said that over and over, but that doesn’t make Plan 2014 good because that’s going increase the amount of damages on years like this year when the lake is really high and the board can’t take any action to do anything. And same thing on the low end. The IJC itself projected $2.5 million in damage per year on an average basis for Ontario, so last year’s flooding probably would have occurred anyway, may have made a few inch difference if we could have taken some action, but that doesn’t make Plan 2014 any good. In addition, when they went out a sold Plan 2014, their top line was protection against extremes and good for the environment. Well, obviously, it doesn’t protect against extremes and that was demonstrated last year. It couldn’t. It didn’t. And part of that is because the downstream area, the river has taken precedence under Plan 2014 where in the past the lake level really drove the decisions.

Adam: Wetlands were a big factor in crafting Plan 2014. Do you think the plan will help wetlands along the shoreline?

Sciremammano: I hope it will because this was an experiment. This was a theory this would work. The damages are going to occur so I hope the benefit is there because the benefit accrue to everyone it’s there. I have my doubts about the science that went behind that in the modeling, but I hope I’m wrong on that because it’s one thing to put up with the damages, it’s one thing to put up with the damages and not have the benefits.

Adam: Do you think this will prompt the Trump Administration to replace the commissioners?

Sciremammano: In general, with the change of administrations even if it’s within the same party, they replace the commissioners. It usually takes a year to 18 months in my experience

Adam: The new commission could scrap Plan 2014, right?

Sciremammano: It’s going to be difficult because the way they wrote it they have to go back to the federal governments to get permission to get permission to make changes and that could be difficult so the purposely made it so Plan 2014 couldn’t be modified quickly or easily and I think it’s because it’s after the election November of 2016 and they adopted it in December and they anticipated there might be a reversal or I don’t know what they were thinking. Speculation is they wrote it that way so they could not be reversed very easily.

Adam: Given that Plan 2014 will stick around for some time, I’m guessing your advice to New York State would be to get that money ready for the big event which is predicted within Plan 2014?

Sciremammano: Yes. And not only get ready for the big event on the high end, but the low end because on the low end, it’s gonna come and stick around for several seasons and those mom and pop marinas and restaurants and bars on the shore, they’re going to be hurting.

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