Lake Ontario water still high despite high winter outflows

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(WSYR-TV) — It’s officially springtime. Don’t you hear the birds chirping? The snow (whatever’s left of it) melting? The rivers flowing? The bulk carrier ships chugging along the St. Lawrence?

Although a little late, the St. Lawrence 2020 shipping season is officially underway as of Wednesday, April 1st. 

The delay was due to a special amendment to Plan 2014 by the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board. The board agreed to allow additional increases to the outflow from Lake Ontario in anticipation of high water levels this spring. 

The significant lack of ice on the Great Lakes this winter boosted outflows to a new seasonal record high. According to the board, about 8.4 ft of water was released from Lake Ontario in two months time (January-February). 

The water across the Great Lakes still remains high though. Now, with typical snowmelt and spring rain expected, outflows have to be reduced in order to not cause major flooding in the Ottawa River Basin. 

One area in particular that the International Joint Commission and the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board monitors is Lake St. Louis near Montreal. At the end of March, water levels were at 72.23 ft. This is 35.4” above average, 24.48” higher than last year and only 5.88” below record maximum value for this time of year. 

As for Lake Ontario itself, despite lake levels lowering almost two inches in the month of February, it is still running almost 20” higher than average for this time of year.

If you compare now to 2019, Lake Ontario is running 9.84” higher.

During the month of March, water levels rose 4.68”.

The forecast for the next month is to rise another 8” to a level of 247. 44 ft. 

Forecast chart from International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board’s Spring 2020 newsletter.

The commission and the board are still urging lakeside property owners to do what they can to prepare for spring flooding. 

The International Joint Commission is hosting a webinar on Friday, April 3rd at noon. They will hold a short discussion on current water levels and actions that they are taking. The presentation will be followed by a moderated online questions. To sign up, click here

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