A bi-national board agreed to maintain near-record Lake Ontario outflows as water levels continue to decline.
The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board met July 5 and reached consensus to maintain outflows at 367,270 cubic feet per second — just shy of the record of 367,300 cubic feet per second in 2017. The board also agreed to maintain high outflows until lake levels drop below 247.7 feet, which may not happen until mid-August.
The outflows are above the levels set in Plan 2014, a water regulation plan adopted by the International Joint Commission in 2016. The commission created the board to manage Plan 2014.
A news release sent by the board Monday said the outflows are above the maximum safe navigation limit on the St. Lawrence River. The U.S. and Canadian Seaway corporations "have implemented mitigation measures to allow safe navigation to continue at these high levels," according to the release.
The high outflows, the board added, will lower Lake Ontario levels.
"These enhanced outflow measures will help to provide immediate and longer-term relief to all impacted upstream shoreline residents and property owners due to the high water levels," the board said in a statement. "The intent of the board is to lower water levels as much as possible prior to winter. It should be noted that the board can only control outflows and not the water supplies to Lake Ontario."
Communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline have been impacted by high water levels for the second time in three years. The lake set a new record in early June and remained above 249 feet for the rest of the month. On July 1, the level dropped to 248.98 feet.
As of Sunday, Lake Ontario was at 248.85 feet.
The board's release also notes that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee has been asked by the International Joint Commission to expedite its review of Plan 2014. A statement is expected this week "describing the extents of the GLAM assessment."
Members of the International Joint Commission met with U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi and John Katko in Oswego last month. The commissioners revealed that they wanted to evaluate the Plan 2014, which some officials have blamed for the flooding along the lake this year and in 2017.
The commission has said that the high water levels are due to excessive rainfall.