IJC plans to add two new members

CONTRIBUTEDThis file photo from May shows Merrell Ann-Phare, Pierre Béland and Henry Lickers who were appointed earlier this year as the Canadian commissioners to the International Joint Commission, the bi-national organization that manages boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada, including setting outflows from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Commissioners announced Wednesday that they have agreed to add two local members – one from each country - from municipalities on the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The International Joint Commission has announced plans to add two new members to the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board.

Commissioners announced Wednesday that they have agreed to add two local members – one from each country - from municipalities on the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. In making the announcement, commissioners indicated that they thought it would be helpful to complement the existing work of the current board and in particular assist in efforts to document the human and social impacts of recent flooding at the local and municipal level in order to enrich the board’s discussions and decisions.

In addition, the board announced that, should funding be secured from the Canadian and U.S. governments, the IJC will seek to appoint two public members to a proposed advisory group under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Adaptive Management Committee.

"These public members would be able to provide knowledge on the upstream and downstream impacts of high water levels on local citizens and local governments," the commission noted in a release issued to the media. 

The move follows concerns raised by lakeshore residents and local officials amid the second summer of record high water levels on Lake Ontario in three years. 

Niagara County Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster recently called on representatives of the IJC, the binational body that manages Great Lakes water levels, to appear before local lawmakers to answer questions about ongoing erosion and flooding plaguing the region.

Burmaster, R-Ransomville, added formal language to a recent legislative resolution that called for the IJC to immediately renegotiate “Plan 2014,” a call that will be forwarded to President Donald Trump.

Others are calling for the plan to be repealed. An online petition titled “Repeal Plan 2014” at Change.org has received nearly 14,000 signatures in recent weeks. Fairport realtor Lauren M. Chateauneuf, who posted the petition June 6, said that upon reaching 15,000 signatures, they plan to send the petition to the White House.

The petition blames the IJC for the flooding, and accuses the international organization of lacking transparency in communicating with affected residents. “The International Lake Ontario - St Lawrence River Control Board ... has failed to acknowledge any correlation between the implementation of Plan 2014 and the widespread destruction that has followed, and this is unacceptable,” the petition reads, referring to the IJC subsidiary that sets controls lake outflows.

Even several local governments in Canada, where Plan 2014 has historically faced much less opposition, have reportedly called for the plan to be overturned.

The Niagara County legislature had previously passed resolutions against the plan, which envisioned slightly higher water at some periods, before its passage in December 2016 as well as during the flooding of 2017.