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U.S.-Canada advisory group joins IJC efforts on Lake Ontario outflow review

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Following concerns about extreme wet conditions that caused record floods, a new public advisory group will be working with water committee managers at the International Joint Commission (IJC) to help identify potential improvements to the regulation of Lake Ontario’s outflows.

Floods occurred in two of the first three years after a new outfall plan took effect in 2017. Now, a 16-member advisory group will work with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee to review the current outfall plan.

In March, the IJC received $3 million in bi-national funding to investigate possible improvements that could be made to Lake Ontario outflow regulation activities.

“The advisory group will create an invaluable, direct connection between the review and those impacted by water levels and flows throughout the system,” said Pierre Béland, Canadian Co-Chair of the IJC, in a statement to media.

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The public advisory group will help the GLAM committee seek potential improvements to regulation by contributing knowledge about water level impacts and input on the assessment methods used in the review, the IJC said in a statement about the outfall review created six years ago, known as Plan 2014.

The advisory group, which will be fully involved with deliberations for the expedited review, is comprised of representatives from organizations such as the Montreal Port Authority, the St. Lawrence Seaway Pilots Association, Université du Québec, the New York Power Authority, United Shoreline Ontario, Thousand Islands International Tourism Council, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, the Boating Ontario Association, Save The River, and the Beaconsfield Yacht Club.

For the full list of Canadian and U.S. advisory group members, please click here.

The GLAM committee and the advisory group will also endeavour to gather broader public input on Lake Ontario’s outfall regulation.

GLAM will determine whether Plan 2014 adequately addresses extreme high and low water levels over the long term, then present their findings to the IJC.

In February, the GLAM committee began an 18-month project to bolster data collection and sharing with the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board as inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie remain near record highs.

“As an initial step in the process, the GLAM committee launched preliminary investigations in fall 2019 in order to quickly provide data that the Board could use in addressing high water conditions,” the IJC stated. “These early results helped the Board set outflows more effectively in the spring of 2020.”

In February, the IJC announced that it supports the strategy of its International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to set maximum Lake Ontario outflows until March 31, before the start of the navigation season on April 1.

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