Lake Ontario's water levels decreased slightly last week, but it's likely not enough to allay concerns about flooding along the shoreline.
The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, a panel established within the International Joint Commission, announced Friday that the lake's level dropped 1.6 inches last week. The board attributed the decline to dry weather, evaporation and high outflows.
Despite the small drop, the lake is still at a high level for this time of year. As of Friday, the lake was at 245.93 feet, more than a foot higher than its March 7 average.
In response to rising waters, the board has increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam near Massena. According to the latest update, outflows stand at 307,000 cubic feet per second, the fifth-highest level since 1960.
Last week, the board revealed that outflows have been increasing since October. It also explained why the high outflows are necessary.
"The Niagara River, which connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is a major contributor to the amount of water that drains into Lake Ontario," the board wrote. "Under extreme conditions, precipitation on the lake and within its local drainage basin can also be a major contributor of water into Lake Ontario.
"These uncontrolled, natural water supply conditions are the primary factor that determines Lake Ontario water levels. As a result, regulation of outflows cannot control the water levels of Lake Ontario, only influence them, and conditions throughout the St. Lawrence River must also be considered."
New York elected officials have called on the board to maximize outflows. In February, state Sen. Pam Helming and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow expressed concern about rising water levels. They wanted Cayuga County's federal representatives to help avoid a repeat of 2017, when severe flooding affected several shoreline communities.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. John Katko urged the International Joint Commission to take action to prevent flooding.