IJC: Economic factors played a role in not raising Lake Ontario outflows

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OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In the latest release from the International Joint Commission, the group cites three reasons for not raising lake outflows past their current record level.

The board decided earlier this year to increase the outflow level in an attempt to lessen the damage being caused by high water but stalled at a total of 10,400 m3/s.

While the outflow is 200 m3/s higher than the IJC’s Plan 2014 allows, many communities along the southern shore of Lake Ontario have been unhappy with the results.

The IJC stated Monday, that the economic costs associated with shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway played a role in their decision not to raise the outflow level past 10,400 m3/s and say a higher level would have disrupted large boats from using the channel for commerce.

The board estimates, shutting down the St. Lawrence, even temporarily to allow for a higher outflow level would cost $50 million per day.

In 2017, the St. Lawrence Seaway accounted for $34 billion in transportation-related business revenue. The estimated damage caused by the high water in New York State that same year was $100 million.

Additionally, the IJC said recreational boating and downstream properties in Canada would have also been negatively affected if the lake outflow was increased.

City of Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow (R) told NewsChannel 9 this was just another case of the IJC favoring business over people.

“I wish I could say I’m surprised by their thought process, mentality, and their attitude, but they really haven’t shown much consideration to the damage and devastation Plan 2014 and the IJC have caused up to this point,” said Barlow.

He added, “to see the release today and to see that they could increase outflows, but won’t because of other issues downstream, you know, just check it, add to the list of reasons to be frustrated and disappointed at their lack of understanding in my opinion of what’s going on here.”

While the high water continues to affect the City of Oswego, the Mayor hopes to have the main boat launch at Wright’s Landing open by the end of the month. That area has been closed since the end of May due to flooding.

Barlow’s best case scenario is that the water will recede in time for Harborfest on July 25, but the latest predictions from the IJC and the Army Corps of Engineers show that likely won’t happen until mid-August.


For more local news, follow Rob Hackford on Twitter @Robert_Hackford

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