CAPE VINCENT, N.Y. (WWTI) — Water levels are again a conversation on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Instead of devastating floods, in 2022, the conversation is the exact opposite.
A dry summer, with little precipitation, has led to low water levels on both the Lake and River, which has caused frustration throughout these communities as recreational seasons are being cut short.
Cork Martusewicez, who owns Precision Marine in Cape Vincent, said he’s already hauling boats as many of his customers found themselves in dangerous waters.
“I’ve had customers tow their boats two weeks earlier than normal,” he said. “They can’t use their boats and I’m having a hard time pulling the boats out now.”
It is normal for water levels to drop in August and September as the fall season progresses. However, the marina owner said, he’s never seen it this low, this early.
“I’ve been here 36 years,” Martusewicez shared. “This is drastic.”
But according to data from the International Joint Commission and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, these are not historically low water levels, instead below average. Similar levels were recorded in 1987, 1998 and 2018.
Some long-time St. Lawrence River boaters are accepting this reality.
Clayton boat owner Mike Flood said it’s all about awareness and understanding. He hauled his boat early after he realized hazards on the water.
“I look at the data, plus I’ve lived here for a long time,” Boat Owner Mike Flood said. “When I’m out in the boat, I have to be aware of where are the water levels.”
To assist with fall boat haulings the International Joint Commission is set to increase outflows from Lake Ontario through the Moses- Saunders Dam for 72 hours starting October 7. This is considered a minor deviation permitted by Plan 2014.
However, Bryce Carmichael, the U.S. Secretary for the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said this will only provide temporary relief.
“It’s very challenging,” Carmichael said. “There’s a little bit of influence that the regulations can have on water levels. But it’s not a lot and we’re really bound by the constraints of the river itself. We would expect conditions to remain fairly low as we’re seeing right now after the fall boat haul.”
The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board is expected to release more information in the coming weeks.