As water begins to spill over the shores of Lake Ontario, causing damage to many waterfront communities, the international body that regulates lake levels said its doing all it can to mitigate the issues.
Newly-appointed members of the International Joint Commission were in the Buffalo and Rochester areas Tuesday, speaking with experts and elected officials on the ground. Despite regular criticism of Plan 2014, which outlines outflows for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, the commissioners said it is not the problem right now.
“In situations of very high supply from above, from Lake Erie, from Lake Superior, no plan would be able to produce a situation where nobody is getting flooded so we are trying to balance all the interests and make sure that we give the maximum relief to everybody,” IJC Canadian Chair Pierre Béland said.
As for calls to repeal the plan, they said it won’t happen anytime soon. U.S. Chair Jane Corwin said Plan 2014 is complex and pointed out it currently does not constrain the IJC board from releasing the maximum amount of water because levels are so high.
“It took a long time to do it. It would take a long time to undo it, quite frankly, and I think more importantly, undoing Plan 2014 at this moment isn’t going to fix the problem that were facing with right now,” Corwin said.
The commission is now filled with all six members – three from the U.S. and three from Canada – officially getting appointed earlier this month. There had been vacancies for several years.
“The process was a little frustrating to be quite frank,” Corwin said. “It was a long way coming. I’m happy that they came to the conclusion to confirm us and we’re happy to go and moving forward work as hard as we can for the behalf of the people of the U.S. and Canada.”
The commission did say it will be reviewing Plan 2014 moving forward and no regulation plan is permanent. However, members said they need to conclude if high water levels for two of the last three years is a new normal or part of an extended abnormal weather event.