IJC says Lake Ontario flooding in 2021 is very unlikely, ends deviation of Plan 2014


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The floods of 2017 and 2019 on Lake Ontario are very unlikely for 2021, according to the latest prediction from the International Joint Commission.

The risk of flooding went from 28% in December to 8% in March thanks to a drier than average January and February across the Great Lakes Basin.

As of February 28, Lake Ontario sits at 244.42 feet, about four inches below average. The water level has dropped despite continued high outflows of Lake Erie.

The number has been below average since late January, a stretch that people along Lake Ontario have not seen in over four years.

Water levels through February 28 courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board was deviating from the outflow regulation plan set by Plan 2014 since January, something they did over the past few years to help manage high water inflow.

That has now changed. Based on lower levels of Lake Erie, the board has decided to return to the regulations of Plan 2014 as of March 1, which call for continued high outflows downstream through the Moses-Saunders Dam.

According to the IJC, more deviations are possible as the threat of flooding is still non-zero. Here is their statement:

Due to the uncertainty of seasonal conditions and the potential for conditions to rapidly change, the Board intends to meet regularly through the spring.  The Board retains authority granted by the IJC to deviate from Plan flows through the seasonal crest of Lake Ontario this year. Under this authority, the Board can implement additional deviations to increase flows above Plan Limits should conditions warrant. Deviations from Plan 2014 have had a very small contribution to the reduction in flood risk.  It is also important to note that deviations above Plan prescribed flows have potentially detrimental impacts to other interest groups including water users on Lake St. Lawrence and the ecosystem.

At this point, it would require an extremely wet period through March and April to cause any significant concern for flooding heading into summer.

The Climate Prediction Center does have a slightly above average chance for a wet spring across the Great Lakes, but longer range forecasts are not a great predictor of actual results.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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