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IJC to review Plan 2014, but says nothing can be done to ease flooding this year

Jason Smith
WRVO News File Photo
Lake Ontario remains more than 30 inches above normal, with many shoreline residents still experiencing flooding

As high water continues to cause damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline, members of the International Joint Commission, the U.S./Canadian organization that helps control water levels, are at times defending Plan 2014, that many blame for high water. But they are also open to the idea that some tweaks to the plan could mitigate the flooding in the future.  

The debate raging along the lakefront essentially comes down to this. Is devastating flooding in two of the last three years the result of near record amounts of rainfall? Or is it caused by Plan 2014?

Jane Corwin, the newly appointed U.S. section chair of the IJC, said it’s hard to say.

"We haven’t seen the plan operate under normal weather conditions yet, because we’ve had excessive water since the plan was implemented," Corwin said Friday during a meeting in Oswego.

Canadian representative Pierre Béland believes that excessive rainfall throughout the Great Lakes Basin is the reason for the flooding.

"I believe Plan 2014 is a good plan, and many things have been said about it that are not exact, and we are trying to send information around so people have the real story," said Béland.

But that’s not how people or politicians representing residents along the shoreline see it.

"Some people like myself think it’s not a coincidence that since [Plan] 2014 went into existence, we’ve had catastrophic flooding on the shore of Lake Ontario two out of three years," said Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who represents a large swath of lake shore property. He brought the IJC commissioners to Oswego to hear and see firsthand the impact of the flooding.

Corwin admits that people don’t have confidence in the plan, so the IJC has decided to conduct a study of Plan 2014 and its predecessor called 1958DD.

“Do some computer modeling, compare 58DD with 2014 and run simulations, see how the differences would pan out," she said. "There are things we can do to get a better understanding of what’s going on.”

Corwin and Béland say that may lead to some tweaks of Plan 2014 down the road, but note nothing can be done to ease this year’s record high water levels. That’s why Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow wasn’t impressed with the answers he heard at the roundtable.

"It’s hard to be encouraged by further study when we’re talking to two chairs, and one is defending the plan saying it’s a good plan, and the other says we need to take a look at it and it’s going to take more time. Not much to be excited about," said Barlow.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
WRVO News (file photo)
IJC Commissioners Jane Corwin, left, and Pierre Béland, right attend a roundtable discussion in Oswego about the IJC's Plan 2014. At center is central New York Rep. John Katko.

Katko, along with Rep. Anthony Brindisi D-Utica, say their role will be to continue to apply pressure to U.S. and Canadian officials over the lakeshore impact of a very complicated bi-lateral agreement between the two nations straddling the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

Brindisi said that means putting a human face on the flooding.

"Sometimes what the governments are looking as the wetlands, or shipping needs, when first and foremost it’s people’s health, safety and property that should come before shipping and wetlands and everything else," Brindisi said.

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.