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With Lake Ontario levels below 2019, IJC stops deviating from Plan 2014

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Flickr, Creative Commons
Moses-Saunders Dam

The international governmental body that helps regulate water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River has been reducing how much water is being released from the Lake through the Moses-Saunders Dam.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board had been deviating from the prescribed outflow levels set forth in its water management plan, Plan 2014, since last October in order to avoid a repeat of flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline in 2019. But officials now say that thanks to higher outflows, when Lake Ontario peaked in early May it was 20 inches lower than where it peaked last year. 

"Lake Ontario has peaked early and will keep dropping, so the Board is no longer deviating from Plan 2014," said Stephen Durett, the U.S. co-chair of the Board.

By lowering the outflows from Lake Ontario, the Board hopes to make navigation in the St. Lawrence River safer and raise the water levels in Lake St. Lawrence, which officials say are extremely low.

See current water levels here

Durrett said the Board's forecasts show that Lake Ontario will continue to decline for the rest of the summer. However, Lake Ontario is still about a foot above its long-term average currently and is experiencing record inflows from Lake Erie. So, the Board plans to keep outflows at the highest level allowed under Plan 2014 while also maintaining safe navigation in the St. Lawrence River.

"We're going to keep very close tabs on it and keep monitoring and make adjustments to our strategy as necessary depending on what the weather conditions actually do," Durrett said. 

Board officials estimate that the deviation from Plan 2014 shaved off seven inches from Lake Ontario's peak this year. 

Correction: A previous version of this article said water levels on Lake St. Louis were extremely low. It is Lake St. Lawrence that is experiencing very low water levels, not Lake. St. Louis. We regret the error. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.