WATERTOWN — Several north country residents have been named to a group advising a larger committee tasked with reviewing the plan that regulates Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River outflows.
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee is conducting a $3 million study of the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014, the basic regulation plan that dictates outflows from the lake and river.
Plan 2014 has been widely criticized since its adoption in late 2016. Within a few months of its adoption, widespread flooding was experienced along the lake and river shoreline, with flooding occurring again in 2019. While flooding appears less likely this season, Lake Ontario’s level as of Wednesday was at 247.21 feet, a foot above its historical average for this point in the year.
In light of flooding in two of the past three years since Plan 2014’s implementation, the IJC has directed one of its subcommittees, commonly called the GLAM Committee, to conduct an expedited review of the regulation plan to determine its effectiveness and recommend if any changes are needed in it.
The Public Advisory Group, which consists of eight U.S. and eight Canadian members, will help the committee look for potential improvements to the plan by contributing knowledge about water level impacts and input on the assessment methods used in the review, according to the IJC. Group members have been asked to help foster two-way dialogue between the committee and affected interests and constituencies.
Representing north country interests will be John Boyce, president of the St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association, Cape Vincent; Jefferson County Legislator Robert W. Cantwell III, R-Clayton; Patrick Davis, New York Power Authority, Massena; Corey C. Fram, executive director of the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council, Alexandria Bay; and John Peach, executive director of Save the River, Clayton.
Other U.S. members include Bernie Gigas, a Rochester-area engineer, David Scudder, a board member for Save our Sodus, and Jonathan Schultz, director of emergency services and fire coordinator for Niagara County.
The GLAM Committee prioritized activities in a two-phase approach that formally began in February. The first phase of the expedited review, expected to last about 18 months, focuses on providing information to the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board at a time when near-record high inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie continue.
As an initial step in the process, the GLAM Committee launched preliminary investigations in fall 2019 in order to quickly provide data that the river board could use in addressing high water conditions. These early results helped the board set outflows more effectively this spring.
The second phase will look at how Plan 2014 addresses extreme high and low water levels over the longer term. The GLAM Committee is responsible for providing the data, information and tools needed to support the board in decisions on whether it should recommend adjustments to the plan.
Changes to Plan 2014 would need to be approved by the IJC and agreed to by both the U.S. and Canadian governments.