Reilich frustrated with managing Lake Ontario outflows

Local News

Lake Ontario has had record flooding for two of the past three years and the agency that regulates lake outflows has been under fire, especially from the Town of Greece. 

The International Joint Commission has a branch that regulates flow through the Moses-Saunders Dam along the St. Lawrence called the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board. Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich, vocally against many of the decisions made by this board has joined the conversation as the newest member. 

“It’s not only the outflow of the water but what’s the volume coming into the lake,” says Reilich. He considers himself the voice for the southern shores of Lake Ontario, whereas before the dominating voice, according to Reilich, was shipping through Canada. “Balancing means when there’s a pain, the flooding that we’ve experienced, everyone has to feel that pain. Maybe we shut down shipping for a week.” 

That is one of the big proposals he has put forward to give more time for higher flows out of Lake Ontario. Another frustration is the time it takes to make decisions within the board. “We want to put a letter out. It’s sometimes three weeks before, this person wants to add that, take that out, change it three different times. Let’s just get it out,” said Reilich. 

Regardless, there have been changes. The outflow through Moses-Saunders dam is much higher now than in past years heading into January. This is a decision Reilich said he was a part of and something the Western New York Chapter of the Nature Conservancy’s Jim Howe says should help prevent a 2020 disaster.  

“If the rainfall is average next year,” said Howe, “The lake will still be higher than normal, but we shouldn’t see anything like what we’ve seen.” 

As far as finding a cause of the flooding, Reilich isn’t interested. “so many people will tell you why it’s high, why this or that, my bottom line is let’s let more water out,” said Reilich. 

The supervisor is not worried about repealing Plan 2014 at this time. He said it would simply take too much time. His focus is on getting water levels lower at any cost heading into 2020.  

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