Niagara Gazette

July 19, 2013

Lake level debate continues

BY BILL WOLCOTT
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette —

The International Joint Commission heard from the Canadian side of the Lake Ontario water levels issue on Friday on Cornwell Island. The final public hearing was on the  St. Lawrence River, near the site of the Ontario Power Generation's Robert Saunders Generation Station.

Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey attended the Lockport public hearing at the Cornell Co-Operative on Sunday and addressed the technical hearing on Tuesday in Rochester. On Wednesday, the Town of Wilson passed a resolution to reject the current IJC plan.

"The five counties on the south shore are going to suffer — nobody on the St. Lawrence, nobody in Montreal, nobody over in Toronto," Godfrey said. "Our south shore is going to get beat. They admitted that. IJC admitted there was going to be damage. We won't get any funding to mitigate that damage."

Lake Ontario south shore opponents of the proposed Plan 2014 say it will allow higher highs and lower lows. The highs will mean more erosion along the shore and the lows will affect the harbor.

IJC public affairs officer Frank Bevacqua explained that under the plan, the highs will be about 2.5 inches higher and the lows will be up to eight inches lower — if the water supplies are the same as the 20th century. 

"It doesn't increase flooding, but will still have an impact," he said. "It's modest, but not trivial." 

The major impact is on the shore protection structures and shore line. Bevacqua said that Canada has been working on the issue for 50 years through the Ontario Conservation Authority. Regional planning groups have set up water sheds and have put more restrictions on  building on the beaches and flood plain. New York has not done that.

According to Godfrey, conservationists and the Department of Environment are the face of the new plan. The argument is that the lake has been neglected for over 50 years since the dam was built and the ecosystem is being destroyed.

How much can controls at the dam effect water level? It takes man-made measures days or weeks to and raise or lower the water levels a few inches, according to Bevacqua.  Water and storms from Mother Nature can change the level in a few hours.

Godfrey feels that the power generating dam at the Saunders Generation Station and big shipping are behind the current proposal. Shipping wants to deeper water to add more tonnage on and the power company wants more water to produce more electricity, according to the legislator who lives in Wilson.

"All we can do is get the people out to fight," Godfrey said. "It's not just the property owners, because it is all the taxpayers."

A tele-conference will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the stakeholders will have an opportunity to speak and listen to the IJC commissioners, according to Bevacqua. Public comments received by Aug. 30 will be included in the record.