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Continued high water levels causing safety issues
By Terry Duffy
Call it the latest casualty of flooding hitting the River Region this year.
On Tuesday, the Youngstown Yacht Club announced the 2019 edition of the Can Am Challenge has been cancelled. It was originally scheduled to run July 26-28.
“This is the call we were hoping we would not have to make,” YYC spokesman Tim Finkle said of the club’s decision to cancel this year’s Can Am.
The culprit? Continued high water issues affecting Lake Ontario and the lower river, including the Youngstown docks and the YYC.
The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Board, which manages Lake Ontario outflows for the U.S.-Canadian-based International Joint Commission though IJC’s Plan 2014, stated Lake Ontario water levels continue to be at near records. As of July 4, the lake stood at 248.92 feet above sea level, versus its long-term overage of 246.23 feet, with maximum outflows of 7,800 meters per second coming out of the Massena dam.
Water levels throughout the Great Lakes system remain high primarily due to the far-higher-than-normal precipitation and flooding that struck the Midwest earlier this spring. All of that enters the Great Lakes, and eventually the lower river and Lake Ontario. And with the IJC controlling the outflows at Massena per Plan 2014 to curtail flooding upstream at Montreal, Lake Ontario remains abnormally high.
Recreational boating throughout the region has become a casualty this year.
“For the past 45 years, Youngstown has been the place to be on the last weekend of July – the first 40 years as the Level Regatta, the last five as the Can Am Regatta,” Finkle said. “When we sent out the update blast a week ago, we thought we might be able to pull it off, but the revised long-range forecast makes it clear that it will not be possible this month.”
Finkle said that, despite YYC efforts to maintain some degree of normalcy of club operations on the lower river, “most of the grounds and docks are under water, with no improvement of late. In order to give everyone sufficient notice and minimize inconvenience, we have elected to make the announcement now.”
He said he hopes the event will return next year. The Can Am Challenge typically draws hundreds of sailors from throughout southern Ontario, Quebec, and the mid- and northeastern-U.S.
YYC officials were quick to add that all is not lost, however. This spring, the club modified its river access for the public and, while docks do remain under water, up to 75 boats are currently anchored off shore in the river by the YYC grounds.
And the club is planning on staging an alternate to the scuttled Can Am Challenge. Called the “Can Am Lite,” the event will be held on the same weekend as the original event, with a focus primarily on the local sailing community.
“We will be hosting a smaller event on the same weekend for any boats that do not need dockage and storage here, essentially boats local to us,” Finkle said. “The main reason we cannot host the Can Am is we do not have a safe place to accommodate visiting boats.
“The deal is not entirely cancelled. (We) cancelled the regular Can Am for out-of-town people; it’s still on for locals.”
Finkle noted he expects up 30 boats to take part in the Cam Am Lite that weekend, down from the 90-100 boats that typically compete at the Can Am Challenge.
YYC organizer Amy Reynolds said that, while the Thursday night street party on Youngstown’s Main Street would not occur, a Friday night happening open to the public is on at the YYC. The Buffalo Band PA Line will be on stage that night and food and drink will be available. Local musician Chris Borgatti will be on stage Saturday, with lake racing and on shore activities expected over the weekend.
All events are open to the public. Look for updates on this year’s Can Am Lite in future Sentinel issues.