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What can be learned from this year's flooding on Lake Ontario?

Payne Horning
WRVO News (file photo)
Many parts of the Lake Ontario shoreline saw significant flooding this spring and summer due to record high water levels

As high water levels start to recede along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, the question remains: could something have been done to stop flooding that has devastated much of the shoreline?

Many homeowners and lawmakers are blaming Plan 2014, which changed the way water levels are regulated along the lake and Saint Lawrence Seaway starting this year. 

Greg Boyer of SUNY ESF in Syracuse is the acting director of the Great Lakes Research Consortium, and says the timing is suspect for anyone who wants to blame Plan 2014.

“The problem is that by the time [Plan] 2014 went into effect in January, we were probably already past the point where we would have been able to do anything,” said Boyer.

Boyer believes for there to have been any substantial impact on flooding, authorities would have had to release water from the lake, through a dam in northern New York, in early winter. Compounding the problem, says Boyer, was flooding in Canada that made it difficult for any adjustments later in the season. So he’s not ready to blame the International Joint Commission, the U.S./Canadian organization that is taking much of the blame for the flooding.  But he does believe that now that officials know what can happen, they have to take it into account next winter. 

“I would expect, I don’t know this, but I would expect, that maybe next year in the winter they might be a bit more proactive, and drop the lake level a little faster and earlier, while they still can, on the off chance they have a wet spring,” he said.

Federal lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are urging President Donald Trump to declare the shoreline impacted by flooding a federal disaster area.  

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.