Reps. Katko, Brindisi, Morelle, and Jacobs Call on IJC to Acknowledge Failures of Plan 2014, Take Steps to Prevent Flooding in 2021​

October 9, 2020
Press Release

SYRACUSE, NY — Following a year of historic water levels across the Great Lakes, U.S. Reps. John Katko (NY-24), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22)Joseph Morelle (NY-25), and Chris Jacobs (NY-27) today sent a bipartisan letter to Jane Corwin, Chair and Commissioner of the U.S. Section, International Joint Commission (IJC), and Pierre Beland, Chair and Commissioner of the Canadian Section, IJC, requesting the IJC present a strategy to mitigate the threat of coastal flooding along Lake Ontario’s southern shore in 2021.

After the IJC’s implementation of water level management procedures under Plan 2014, Lake Ontario’s southern shore experienced record high water levels and severe flooding in 2017 and 2019. With coastal communities still recovering from resulting property and infrastructure damage, Reps. Katko, Brindisi, Morelle, and Jacobs called on the IJC to provide information regarding steps that will be taken to prevent further devastation in 2021. The lawmakers also brought attention to the importance of employing water level management procedures that reflect actual conditions on Lake Ontario, highlighting the IJC’s consistent need to deviate from Plan 2014 since its establishment.

“In the past year, historic water levels have impacted the entirety of the Great Lakes system, with Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Erie all experiencing water levels at or near record highs. Although Lake Ontario has not experienced a repeat of the devastation that impacted our shorelines in 2017 and 2019, water levels continue to stand above long-term historic averages. With these unprecedented conditions likely to persist throughout the Great Lakes system, it is critical that water level management practices on Lake Ontario are responsive to the very real threats facing our shorelines,” wrote Katko, Brindisi, Morelle, and Jacobs.

In their letter, Reps. Katko, Brindisi, Morelle, and Jacobs requested information from the IJC regarding their plans to respond to the high supply of water into Lake Ontario and address the threat of coastal flooding in the upcoming year.  The representatives also requested an update regarding the IJC’s ongoing review of Plan 2014.

The full text of the letter is below.

 

September 25, 2020

The Honorable Jane Corwin

U.S. Section Chair and Commissioner

International Joint Commission

1717 H Street NW, Suite 801

Washington, DC 20006

The Honorable Pierre Beland

Canadian Section Chair and Commissioner

International Joint Commission

234 Laurier Avenue West, 22nd Floor

Ottawa, ON K1P 6K6, Canada

 

Dear IJC Chairs Corwin and Beland,

With water levels on Lake Ontario continuing to stand above historic averages, we write to request additional information regarding the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) strategy for responding to these conditions in the months ahead. Specifically, we would like to request information regarding the Commission’s plans for responding to the persistent high supply of water into Lake Ontario, including the potential consideration of further deviations from Plan 2014.

In the past year, historic water levels have impacted the entirety of the Great Lakes system, with Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Erie all experiencing water levels at or near record highs. Although Lake Ontario has not experienced a repeat of the devastation that impacted our shorelines in 2017 and 2019, water levels continue to stand above long-term historic averages. With these unprecedented conditions likely to persist throughout the Great Lakes system, it is critical that water level management practices on Lake Ontario are responsive to the very real threats facing our shorelines.

As of March 2020, approximately 30% of Plan 2014’s duration had been spent in a range of extremely high water levels that are deemed to warrant major deviations from normal regulation procedures under the plan. In 2019, disparities between Plan 2014’s model and actual conditions on Lake Ontario were so significant that they resulted in the IJC’s decision to allow the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River (LOSLR) Board to deviate from the plan for more than a year. The importance of this decision was acknowledged in a press release issued by the LOSLR Board on September 3, 2020, which stated:

“Lake Ontario is still lower than it otherwise would be owing to deviations from Plan 2014 that occurred for several months starting in summer of 2019.”

Given the consistent necessity of deviations from Plan 2014, it is critical that the IJC clearly articulate a strategy for responding to the persistent high supply of water into Lake Ontario and the threat of coastal flooding in 2021. We ask that that IJC provide detailed information regarding their plans to address these challenges in the months ahead, as well as any consideration the

Commission has given to changing thresholds within Plan 2014 to address the sustained impact of high waters levels on our shoreline communities. Additionally, we request a substantive update regarding the IJC’s ongoing review of Plan 2014. These steps would provide necessary transparency to our constituents and begin to address communications concerns that were raised by stakeholders in the Government Accountability Office’s assessment of Plan 2014 earlier this year.

Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

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