IJC moves ahead with Plan 2014

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IJC Commissioners sign the updated order of approval, known as Plan 2014, for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. From left to right, seated: Gordon Walker, Chair of Canadian Section, Lana Pollack, Chair of U.S. Section, standing, Commissioners Benoît Bouchard, Rich Moy and Richard Morgan.

Commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC) signed an updated order of approval December 8 for the regulation of water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The updated order makes it possible for the IJC to approve Plan 2014, a new regulation for determining the flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam located on the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York. The updated order and plan replace an outdated system of regulating flows developed in the 1950s.

“Plan 2014 is a modern plan for managing water levels and flows that will restore the health and diversity of coastal wetlands, perform better under changing climate conditions and continue to protect against extreme high and low water levels,” said U.S. Section Chair Lana Pollack.

“We are pleased that Plan 2014 will bring system-wide improvements, with consideration of ecosystem health and recreational boating along with shoreline communities, commercial navigation and hydropower production,” said Canadian Section Chair Gordon Walker.

Plan 2014 will continue to protect shoreline property and will retain, essentially unchanged, the environmental conditions and coastal protections on the lower St. Lawrence River, below the Moses-Saunders Dam. The plan will improve ecosystem health and diversity on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River and provide net economic benefits. Allowing for more natural variations of water levels, the plan will foster the conditions needed to restore 64,000 acres (26,000 hectares) of coastal wetlands and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The plan will also frequently extend the recreational boating season, better maintain system-wide levels for navigation and increase hydropower production.

Plan 2014 is the result of more than 16 years of scientific study, public engagement and governmental review. During the five-year Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study (2000-2006), technical experts and stakeholders together built evaluation models and tested hundreds of alternatives, with extensive public participation throughout the process. The IJC continued to optimize alternatives developed during the study and held public meetings in 2012 and public hearings in 2013 before proposing Plan 2014 to the two federal governments.

The IJC will instruct its board to ensure that flows through the power project are set in accordance with Plan 2014 beginning in January 2017. The board includes federal, state, provincial and local members.

For more information, visit the commission’s website here.

Maritime Editorial