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Building for resilience most reliable way to reduce flood impacts: International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board

To the Editor,

We read with interest the article ‘Flooded section of County Road 28 makes it third road closed,’ published on June 14 on Countylive, which touches on the question of whether Plan 2014 contributed to the record floods on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River this year and in 2017.

To place the article in context, the flooding was caused by persistent and at times exceptionally wet weather across the Great Lakes basin along with extremely high inflows to Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River.

At present, Plan 2014 has responded to high water supplies with high Lake Ontario outflows, as the previous plan would have.

Furthermore, throughout the late summer and fall of 2018, flows under Plan 2014 were almost certainly higher than they would have been under the previous plan.

During the late summer and fall of 2018, the rules and provisions of Plan 2014 enabled us to set and maintain record or near-record flows, which helped to reduce the flooding impacts that we are experiencing in 2019.

During the spring of 2019, high outflows from Lake Ontario were somewhat constrained by conditions in the St. Lawrence River, including the need to avoid the formation of ice jams, the extent of downstream flooding as the Ottawa River was flowing into the St. Lawrence River at record volumes, the need for navigational safety, and the need to protect water intakes. We would have faced these same conditions and constraints under the previous plan.

In recognition of the limited ability of the any regulation plan to prevent flooding, it is vital that all coastal communities make high and low water levels a part of everyday planning and practice. Building for resilience is the most reliable way to reduce damages and impacts in the future.


Dr. Geneviève Béchard, Canadian Co-chair
Stephen Durrett, Alternate US Co-chair
International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Larry Champoux says:

    To me, it is looking like more and more like a Crime Against Humanity through the forced removal of populations from their property. No wonder Geneviève Béchard would like to blame the rain, when it is the policy of Plan 2014 and its administration that has caused this devastation to humans, to nature and to our trust in the IJC.

  2. LB says:

    Respectfully Dr. Bechard and Mr. Durrett your letter to the Editor really just makes me further suspect that your water management Plan is a contributor to the record high water marks. You say the cause is partly natural along with high inflows to Lake Ontario. So not just rain and run off. Why then are there extremely high inflows into Lake Ontario? …. enough to cause record high water marks. You say Plan 2014 has responded this year with outflows however it is apparent the outflows to date are insufficient to mitigate the flooding. Therefore your comment really just states a fact. We have flooding. You are letting out water. Most readers are aware why higher outflows are not possible, at least in the Spring, so no need to explain the limitations.

    Your additional point that Plan 2014’s 2018 outflow was higher than previous plans is not surprising given the record 2017 high water mark levels and the (perhaps anticipated??) 2019 levels. You go on to say that if you had not implemented the high 2018 outflows, the flooding in 2019 would be much worse. So that does seem to indicate Plan 2014 was anticipating this years flooding. You already know high waters will be more the rule than the exception and that’s why I believe you pointed out that no water management plan will be effective to prevent flooding and we should resign to govern ourselves accordingly.

    I’m sorry, but it appears Lake Ontario was doing fine until Plan 2014 came along. I cannot recall in my lifetime ever hearing of Lake Ontario rising 3 ft before – and I had never heard of Plan 2014 before. Highest water levels ever recorded! Something has changed. Climate change is not that dramatic and would likely effect a more steady rise, so what else has changed. Hmmmmm. Water management.

  3. SAB says:

    Did I not read in the Globe and Mail a few weeks back that a number of people in Toronto that have homes in flood areas will not be able to get home insurance….in reading historical novels, it seems to me that only those who could not afford to build on the high areas built near the rivers or lakes

  4. Barbara Wallace says:

    You absolutely got it right Chris. This letter just made my blood boil. Our house, like most others on the water in the County, was built according to the regulations regarding the high water mark, and had the building permit to prove it. I think it was a very irresponsible remark for someone on that board to make. I really wish someone could explain to me why they can’t lower the lake level in the winter to make more room in the ‘bathtub’. And if it isn’t needed in the Spring, so much the better. At least people on both sides of the lake won’t lose billions of dollars in property and businesses.

  5. Chris Keen says:

    Members of this Board are clearly going to continue to claim that Plan 2014 is not the cause of the flooding in 2017 and 2019 – full stop. It’s all very well to say “it is vital that all coastal communities make high and low water levels a part of everyday planning and practice. Building for resilience is the most reliable way to reduce damages and impacts in the future.” But that horse has left the barn for current buildings and site locations around the Great Lakes, and the comment is simply patronizing and no help to residents experiencing problems.

    Instead, I suggest the Board look at expanding its current role next year with the help of meteorologists and hydrologists. They can look at snow depth and the volume of water it will produce when it melts and flows into the Great Lakes Basin, and long-range weather forecasts for spring rain frequency and intensity. If the volumes of water these events are forecast to produce similar conditions to 2017/2019, water can begin to be released from the system in the first quarter of the year in anticipation of problems before flooding can begin. Adjustments can be made from that point on depending upon the actual conditions.

    This Board must be part of a more proactive management of spring/melt rainfall in future. I trust our politicians, like MP Neil Ellis, will not fall back on this excuse to do nothing when asked for help. “However, while an individual year is certainly important for informing the overall assessment, a longer period is required in order to evaluate Plan 2014’s performance under a wider range of varying conditions. Your patience in awaiting further reports issued by the IJC is appreciated.”

    Remember what Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”

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