The International Joint Commission is creating two more seats on a board overseeing Lake Ontario outflows as it seeks to address flooding along the lake and St. Lawrence River.
Two local government officials — one from the U.S. and one from Canada — will join the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board. The board's main task is to manage Lake Ontario outflows and provide updates on water levels.
The International Joint Commission, a bi-national panel which oversees shared boundary waters, agreed that adding the local government seats "would be helpful to complement the existing work of the (board) and in particular assist in their efforts to document the human and social impacts of recent flooding at the local and municipal level in order to enrich the board's discussions and decisions."
For the second time in three years, communities along Lake Ontario have been impacted by flooding. Flooding has been reported along the St. Lawrence River in eastern Canada.
Lake levels reached a record high in 2017. A new record was set in June when the lake was measured at more than 249 feet.
The International Joint Commission has been criticized for not doing enough to prevent flooding this year. The critics, including several New York elected officials, say the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board should've increased outflows earlier to avoid the adverse effects of high water levels.
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Data available on the IJC's website shows that outflows were above the historical average at the end of 2018. Earlier this year, outflows were reduced before rising again beginning in late January until mid-April.
The board reduced outflows again due to flooding along the river in eastern Canada. Outflows began to increase in late April and early May as Lake Ontario water levels continued to rise.
Lake Ontario outflows are now at 367,300 cubic feet per second, which is a record. The board plans to maintain the high outflows for much of the summer.
Lake levels are slowly declining. As of Wednesday, the lake was at 248.69 feet.
The International Joint Commission also announced Wednesday that it plans to appoint two members of the public to a proposed advisory group with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Adaptive Management Committee. The members "would be able to provide knowledge on the upstream and downstream impacts of high water levels on local citizens and local governments," according to a news release.
The commission hopes to receive funding from the U.S. and Canadian governments to make the appointments.