The Government Accountability Office will conduct a review of Plan 2014, the International Joint Commission's regulatory standards for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and examine whether the commission is addressing concerns raised by business and property owners about the effects of the plan.
U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi and John Katko announced the GAO's plans Wednesday. The main focus of the agency's study will be the development and implementation of 2014.
Brindisi, D-Utica, and Katko, R-Camillus, represent Oswego County in Congress. Katko has two other counties — Cayuga and Wayne — that are on the Lake Ontario shoreline. The three counties and others in northern and western New York have been affected by flooding along Lake Ontario.
While the International Joint Commission said the flooding is due to record rainfall in the Great Lakes Basin, Brindisi and Katko argue Plan 2014 contributed to the high water levels and subsequent flooding this year and in 2017.
Katko, who took office in 2015, opposed Plan 2014 and criticized the International Joint Commission's decision to adopt the plan in late 2016. In early 2017, he asked President Donald Trump to withdraw the U.S. from Plan 2014.
"I've long urged greater oversight and review of the IJC's implementation of Plan 2014. As our community knows all too well, shoreline homeowners, businesses and our local municipalities continue to suffer from increased water levels and devastating flooding," Katko said.
The GAO's announcement, Katko added, is a "critically important step forward in ensuring accountability from the IJC, and I look forward to reviewing the information gathered."
The review would be separate from another proposed study announced by Jane Corwin, the IJC's U.S. section chair, at a meeting with Brindisi, Katko and other central New York officials in June. Corwin said the commission, a bi-national panel that oversees shared boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada, would seek funding from the two countries to commence a review of Plan 2014.
It's unlikely either study will result in what some stakeholders want — the elimination of Plan 2014. The commission would need consensus from its U.S. and Canadian members to make any changes to the plan. Corwin acknowledged that when she was nominated by Trump in 2018.
Regardless, the congressmen believe the GAO review will be helpful as conversations continue about what can be done to prevent flooding along the lake.
"This GAO study is a step in the right direction for the IJC but more needs to be done," Brindisi said. "Homeowners, business owners and families in Oswego County are fed up with the inaction and lack of foresight from the IJC. Hopefully this study will provide a clear path to fixing what's gone wrong with Plan 2014."