The Lake Ontario Preparedness Group met Thursday in Porter Town Hall to hear updates on local tourism initiatives, and to jointly sign a resolution opposing the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014.
Following presentations on both the Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo and Discover Niagara’s marketing strategy, Village of Wilson Mayor Arthur Lawson shared portions of the resolution with the audience. He said his group wants the IJC to “immediately rescind and suspend Plan 2014,” which members have said adversely altered water levels, leading to damaging floods seen in two of the past three summers.
The IJC website stated, “The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the U.S. and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share. Its responsibilities include considering applications for projects that affect the natural levels and flows of boundary waters, such as the control works at Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York.”
In December 2016, the IJC (per its press release) “signed an updated order of approval for the regulation of water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.” Plan 2014 was intended to “protect shoreline property and will retain, essentially unchanged, the environmental conditions and coastal protections on the lower St. Lawrence River, below the Moses-Saunders Dam.”
Though U.S. Section Chair Lana Pollack said, “Plan 2014 is a modern plan for managing water levels and flows that will restore the health and diversity of coastal wetlands, perform better under changing climate conditions and continue to protect against extreme high and low water levels,” extreme high water levels did occur, causing millions of dollars in damage to shoreline communities in 2017 and 2019. Boating seasons were lost, and local economies suffered.
The resolution reads, in part, “The adoption of plan 2014 by the International Joint Commission has substantially contributed to the damage being caused along the lakeshore, including the villages on Lake Ontario and the Niagara River; and … the Lake Ontario Preparedness Group, its residents and local businesses are once again incurring substantial damage to the property along and around their waterfronts, which has threatened not only the economic vitality of the area, but also the life and safety of residents and visitors to the Lake Ontario Preparedness Area, while at the same time causing severe property damage in and around the Niagara County waterfront; and … the Lake Ontario Preparedness Group in conjunction with the county of Niagara have experienced significant expense as a result of efforts to keep the high water from further impacting the Lake Ontario Preparedness Groups waterfronts; and … the flooding experience again this year threatens municipal infrastructure; and … it is conceivable and reasonable to expect future flooding as we experienced in 2017, 2019 and now 2020, which is caused in great part by plan IJC 2014.”
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch signs the IJC Plan 2014 resolution as Town of Porter Deputy Supervisor Jeff Baker looks on.
The Lake Ontario Preparedness Group is an offshoot of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. REDI earmarked $49 million for shoreline repairs in Niagara and Orleans counties.
Lawson said the group was formed to protect local businesses, generate positive publicity for waterfront communities, connect tourism entities to bolster additional visitation, and fight Plan 2014.
It has requested the IJC fall back to Plan 58DD; that any future water level plans provide additional shoreline protections; fund flood prevention, mitigation and response efforts; and include members of the group of related committees and task forces.
Lake Ontario Preparedness Group members include the Town and Village of Lewiston, the Town of Porter, the Village of Youngstown, the Village of Barker, the Town and Village of Wilson, Town of Newfane and Town of Somerset.