Monday, May 01, 2017

High Lake Ontario levels not the fault of Plan 2014

Lake Ontario, on whose shores I live, is currently about 60cm higher than normal April levels. We spent quite a while yesterday watching huge breakers crashing right over the boardwalk on our beach, and creating a whole new mini-lake on the widest part of the beach, something I have never seen in the 27 years or so that I have been here. Apparently, the last time the lake was this high was in the 1970s.
Some lakeshore property-owners have seen whole chunks of their gardens washed away. So, of course, people are worried about their property values and looking for someone to blame. In particular, many people are, without much evidence, laying the blame on the controversial Plan 2014, which was instituted earlier this year by the US-Canada International Joint Commission, after 16 years of research and negotiations, in order to help conserve threatened wildlife, as well as to protect communities downstream on the St. Lawrence that often flood in the spring, as indeed they are even now. That plan calls for higher high water levels and lower lows (Lake Ontario's levels are regulated to some extent through regulation of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the St. Lawrence Seaway near Cornwall, Ontario).
However, a spokesperson for the International Joint Commission estimated that only a few centimetres of the current high levels are attributable to Plan 2014. The rest (i.e. over 90% of it) is due to the record April rainfall, particularly in western New York state and further west in Michigan. The US Army Corps of Engineers concurs. Nevertheless, many lakefront property owners persist in blaming Plan 2014, and a couple of Republican senators are calling on Donald Trump to reverse the plan (opinions vary as to whether that is legally even possible).
Erosion of lake-front properties is a normal and expected phenomenon. One Niagara property owner estimates that they have lost about 50 feet (that's about 15 metres to you and me) in the 50 years they have lived there, including about 2 feet (60cm) so far this spring. Blaming it (incorrectly) on an environmental protection measure is totally unreasonable. Blame it on Mother Nature if you like, or blame it on man-made global warming and climate change, but don't blame poor old Plan 2014.
Meanwhile, it is still raining...

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