Dry weather and record outflows are helping reduce water levels on Lake Ontario.
As of Thursday, the lake was at 248.10 feet — its lowest level since early May. The International Joint Commission said Friday the reduction in lake levels is due to record-high outflows, declining inflows from Lake Erie and drier weather.
The commission's International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which is tasked with executing Plan 2014, has maintained high outflows from the lake. Outflows were increased June 13 to 367,270 cubic feet per second and remained at that level over the last 60 days.
One challenge is Lake Erie's record-high water levels. The lake, through the Niagara River, flows into Lake Ontario. The commission said Erie continues to add water to Ontario at a record rate.
But with Lake Erie's water levels also declining, the lower inflow has helped Lake Ontario's water levels fall.
It's the second time in three years flooding has affected businesses and homeowners along Lake Ontario. A federal major disaster declaration was issued in 2017, and it's possible another disaster request will be made this year. However, state and local officials have to wait for the water to recede before they can assess the damage.
There has been a greater focus on the commission's role in managing Lake Ontario water levels. Last week, U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi and John Katko announced the Government Accountability Office will review the IJC's implementation of Plan 2014.
Jane Corwin, U.S. section chair of the commission, revealed in June that the bi-national panel overseeing shared boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada would seek support from both countries to evaluate Plan 2014.
In a statement Friday, the commission detailed how its board addressed high water levels on the lake.
"The board is acutely aware and concerned for the welfare of the many affected shoreline property and business owners, as well as the shoreline environmental damage and other impacts of the continuing high water levels," the commission explained. "The boards' current regulation strategy includes deviations from the prescribed flows of Plan 2014 with the specific intention of maximizing the rate of relief that lower water levels will provide to those affected."