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Lake Ontario lawmakers ask Cuomo to halt IJC water levels plan

State lawmakers representing communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario are lining up against a plan to regulate water levels in the lake, and in the St. Lawrence River system.
The opposition is frustrating to environmental groups, and many in riverfront communities. After a decade of looking at the impact of current water regulation in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, the International Joint Commission proposed some changes earlier this year. Their plan, known as BV7, would move toward more natural water flows. It would allow fluctuations of higher and lower water levels.  

Assembly member William Barclay is from Pulaski, in Oswego County. According to him, shoreline property owners are worried about erosion and flooding.

“I'm hearing from a lot of constituents, particularly along the southeast part of the lake shoreline that are concerned about what the plan will do to their property,” Barclay said.

Barclay says some communities he represents are also worried about flooding to their sewer systems.
He and 10 other state lawmakers have written a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo. They want him to stop the IJC plan from moving forward. They also question the science behind the proposal.

“I think it’s unfortunate that this process is, frankly, being hijacked, by some serious misinformation," said Jennifer Caddick, who is the director of the group Save the River, based in Clayton. “It’s frustrating to see these elected officials question the science behind the study. The IJC study has been peer reviewed numerous times.  Various portions have been published in well-respected scientific journals.”

Caddick says shoreline property owners are already concerned about erosion and flooding. She says the IJC plan only allows water levels to rise two and a half inches higher than the current regulation. However, Barclay says that could be enough to cause flooding.

“My understanding is it’s not so much the two inches, it's the sustained amount of time that it could be at that higher level, so if you're up at high water levels already for a certain amount of time, inevitably you're going to have some storms that are going to cause a lot of damage to the shore,” Barclay said.

But Jennifer Caddick says the water isn’t expected to reach the highest water levels on a regular basis -- only during a 100-year flood event. On the other hand, Caddick says the lower water levels will do a great deal to improve shoreline habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife, which she says is good for the tourism economy of the river the and lake. Caddick says it’s also expected to help build back beaches that have eroded away under the current water level plan.

Both sides on this issue are hoping to influence the governor. Meanwhile, the IJC is accepting public comment on the plan until the end of this week.