State AG files expanded IJC lawsuit

In this file photo from August, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo walks a low-lying street in Olcott while surveying damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline in May. Cuomo is pictured with, from left, Niagara County Director of Emergency Services Jonathan Schultz, Newfane Town Supervisor Timothy Horanburg and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. 

The International Joint Commission has appointed a 16-member public advisory group to help identify potential improvements to the regulation of Lake Ontario outflows.

Niagara County Director of Emergency Services & Fire Coordinator Jonathan Schultz is among the eight U.S. members of the group.

The group will assist the IJC’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee with an expedited review of Plan 2014, the plan for regulating outflows that took effect in 2017. The IJC directed the GLAM Committee to conduct the expedited review in response to public concerns over Plan 2014 following the extreme wet conditions that caused record floods in two of the first three years after the plan was adopted.

The public advisory group will help the GLAM Committee seek potential improvements to regulation by contributing knowledge about water level impacts and input on the assessment methods used in the review. Advisory group members have also been asked to help foster a two-way dialogue between the GLAM Committee and affected interests and constituencies. 

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 approximately 18 months, focuses on providing information to the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board during this ongoing period of near-record high inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie. 

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 the Governments of Canada and the United States.

After funding for phase 1 was in place, the IJC asked the GLAM Committee for nominations to the Public Advisory Group from all of the interests and regions affected by water levels and flows on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The Public Advisory Group will be fully involved with the deliberations in the expedited review. 

The IJC was established by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the governments of Canada and the U.S. prevent and resolve disputes over use of the waters shared by the two countries. 

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