Why science is projecting no Lake Ontario flooding this year

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said in a release that they are confident flooding will not happen this summer as it did in 2017 and 2019.

Lets take a look at where the numbers are as of the end of April. Lake Ontario’s water level as of April 26th was 247.21 feet. The value one year ago at this time was 247.11 feet.

While these are nearly the same, the big difference is trends. Check the graph below and note how last year at this time the water level was shooting upward as snowmelt poured into Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the Ottawa River. This year shows a much flatter line.

An encouraging sign of water levels moving forward.

Outflow of Lake Ontario through the Moses-Saunders Dam has continually been at or near record highs through the winter and spring. That has helped match the very high inflow from a full Lake Erie. The pushing back of shipping season as well as pressure from organizations like Save Our Sodus and United Shoreline Ontario may be one of the determining factors that led to the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board keep outflows as high as possible.

MORE | Lake Ontario flooding likely won’t come this year

The outflow regulation has been a complete deviation from Plan 2014, a plan to regulate outflow that was put in place in 2017 to replace the older plan (1958DD). United Shoreline Ontario has consistently pushed back against the new plan. This is what United Shoreline Ontario president Sarah Delicate sent as a statement in response to the release:

“Plan 2014 took away the discretionary powers of the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Board. Members of the original design panel warned strongly against this, as the new ‘trigger levels’ were too high and would cause too much destruction. We pleaded for these concessions in 2017 and 2019 to no avail. In 2020, those discretionary powers were returned to the board, temporarily, with success, which is fantastic. However, the board looses these discretionary powers again in June, just in time to protect the interests of Shipping above all else (L-limit). What more do you need to make it clear that Plan 2014’s original design is flawed, and is actually hostile to the upstream shoreline?” – Sarah Delicate, President United Shoreline Ontario 

Here is a statement from the Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Alliance president Jim Shea. “While we think the IJC and the River Board helped in 2020, lower precipitation in the Ottawa River and Lake Ontario basins were the major drivers in our current water level. Essentially, we got lucky. The IJC missed a huge opportunity in the fall to reduce the water level by at least 6 inches. We need them to take this approach 12 months a year, not just when shipping is not running.”

The forecast for Lake Ontario water level is bright.

Doug Wilcox, a professor of wetland science at The College At Brockport, has repeatedly said that Plan 2014 had nothing to do with the flooding on Lake Ontario and that it was due to extremely high water level upstream as well as very high precipitation within the Lake Ontario water basin.

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