Lake Ontario water levels dropping; upper Great Lakes remain high

Weather

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) — The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board announced Friday that they will no longer release outflows from Lake Ontario above Plan 2014. The Board says the lake has reached it’s peak level and has begun it’s seasonal decline. 

The main reason for the lower levels is the drier weather across the region encompassing Lake Ontario, and the Ottawa and St. Lawrence river basins. 

The month of May was technically below average for precipitation in Syracuse (by about 0.10″). It was WELL below the wet spring of 2019 and 2017 when precipitation for the month of May was more than double the average. 

The higher than normal outflows have aided as well. The combination of the two have brought Lake Ontario water levels 18 inches below highest record May levels (recorded in 2017) and 21 inches below average water levels for May 2019. 

Forecast provided by the International Joint Commission/ International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board.

With that said, peak level is still above average, but has been reduced by about seven inches because of the above normal outflows prior to this spring season. This was possible due to the lack of ice that formed this past winter. 

There is still concern of high water levels upstream. The upper Great Lakes, which flow into Lake Ontario, are all above average and most are above May 2019 levels. In addition, all lakes, except Lake Ontario are forecast to rise in the next month.

SUPERIOR MICHIGAN-HURON ST. CLAIRE ERIEONTARIO
LEVELS AS OF 5/29/20602.59′582.12′577.43′574.57′ 247.18′
DIFFERENCE FROM AVG.+18″+55″+62″+64″+47″
DIFFERENCE FROM 5/2019-6″+7″+3″+2″-21″
FORECAST 6/2020+2″+2″+1″-1″-1″
Data from the US Army Corps of Engineers

The Board expects the high inflows to continue for the foreseeable future so, although not above average, high outflows from Lake Ontario are still expected to continue. This will keep the forecast for the Lake Ontario level to be about one inch below where it is now.

The International Joint Commission has created a committee which is responsible for gathering input from property and business owners directly afftected by high water levels over the past couple years. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee is asking owners to participate in a voluntary online questionnaire to describe impacts which will help assess the performance of regulation plans used to manage outflows of Lake Superior and Lake Ontario. If you’re a property or business owner that was impacted by high water levels in 2019 or 2020 you can participate in the questionnaire here.  

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