Proposal for changing Lake Ontario levels a concern for lakeshore residents
Published May 4, 2006
Proposed changes to Lake Ontario would allow the water to fluctuate much more than it is allowed currently and that's cause for concern for some lakeshore residents. The International Joint Commission was established by treaty between Canada and the United States and governs the Great Lakes. The level of Lake Ontario is regulated at the Moses Saunders Power Dam in Massena.
The IJC created a study board to look at Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to see if the rules set 50 years ago when the St. Lawrence Seaway was built should be modified. The original plans were made before the age of computers.
Frank Sciremamanno, a professor of engineering at RIT, is a member of the St. Lawrence River Board of Control. He's also an IJC study board member and has refused to sign off on the report. “I think it's fairly clear now to me that it was biased. There was an agenda from the start. Two, the science that was used is not valid.”
Sciremamanno says an independent review by the National Academy of Sciences found the proposed plans flawed and they would remove protections for south shore residents. “That people have relied on in terms of designing break walls, boat launches and docks. They're removing that and distributing benefits to others on that basis. And all the plans that have been developed hurt the south shore.”
Who would benefit? They say environmental groups and hydropower interests
Dr. Dan Barletta was appointed to the lake level study board by Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and also refused to sign the final report. “I think it's bad for the south shore. We're going to see damages.”
Dr. Barletta says he has spent $75,000.00 on a new break wall for his Edgemere Drive property. “The plans that are projected, the levels are higher than what we've gotten used to. And they're taking away the major criteria that protects us.”
That protection is written into a treaty called the Emergency Criteria K. It says lake levels should not be lower than 243.3 feet above sea level and no higher than 247.3 feet above sea level. Under any of the three new plans being considered, there will be no upper or lower limits.
Other lakeshore residents are also fighting the new plans. For example, people in Sodus Point say a level of 248 feet, for example, would flood its quaint downtown and many homes as well.
The Save Our Sodus group says the it's more than just a loss to individual property owners. It would damage the economy of the region. “Everything from the bottom of this hill would be flooded. We would be very concerned about high water that would cause flooding and erosion, and very low water that would really damage and destroy recreational boating in Sodus Bay,” said Save Our Sodus group member Ann Hayslip.
But some people do support a lake that fluctuates more. Belinda McElroy, who owns a bed and breakfast on Lake Road, says man has not done very well in mimicking Mother Nature on the lake. “This balance of up and down the lake level will allow certain species to come back again, nature itself. And that's a good thing. That's a good thing, and we need that.”
A spokesman for the International Joint Commission says all the plans under consideration deal very well with flooding issues but erosion is a fact of life on Lake Ontario. And the south shore interests have benefited from the existing plan in the past, perhaps at the expense of other interests like the environment.