International Joint Commission (IJC)
Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Water Levels Webinar
April 3, 2020
SPEAKER: Jane Corwin, US Co-Chair
- Lakes Erie and Superior will hit new record highs if it’s a wet year. Lake Superior will peak in August.
- Lake Erie is at a record-high level and water is flowing into Lake Ontario at a record rate. 85% of Lake Ontario water comes from Lake Erie.
- IJC now deviating from Plan 2014 to increase outflows beyond recommendations to accommodate increased water intake
- Now allowing above-normal water levels near Montreal to accommodate Lake Ontario
- Moses-Saunders Dam is the only way to directly influence Lake Ontario and Lake St. Louis water levels.
- Moses Saunders dam at Cornwall outflow Jan-March 2020: 9,500 cm3/sec
- Flooding up and downstream from the dam in 2019
- Opening date for shipping is up to the Seaway Corporation
- April 1st, determining how much outflow can be allowed without endangering mariners
- IJC communicates with Seaway and gives advice on shipping date
- IJC advice resulted in the delay of shipping to remove extra water through March 2020
- Flow limits for downstream flood levels and limits for Seaway are similar.
- Suspending navigation wouldn’t allow you to move any more water.
- Ice season was shorter this year and that allowed them to increase outflows.
- No limit on the rising of water levels in Lake Ontario
- IJC states that having a limit for Lake Ontario is unnecessary as the limits are often ignored in favour of best judgement.
- Cannot increase flooding downstream more than would have occurred with natural conditions.
- Removing 1cm of water in Lake Ontario means adding 11cm in Montreal
Why are outflows less than around February 27th?
- There is so much water that it is hard to release as much as is coming in.
- Ice flow blockage also impacts outflow levels.
Would limiting shipping hours allow for increased outflow levels?
- Ships cannot stop in the middle of their trip.
- Time limits would have limited impact on shipping anyway.
Where can we see the minutes of IJC Board meetings?
- Minutes can be found on the IJC website
- Worth noting that the IJC operates by consensus not majority decision
What is being done to lower levels in Georgian Bay?
- IJC has no mechanism to impact Georgian Bay.
Can the St. Lawrence be dredged?
- Yes, but all that water would end up downstream.
Can mitigation measures be implemented only if shipping is not affected?
How long does it take for water from Lake Superior to get to Lake Ontario?
- Two years
Where can water level and outflow information be found?
- Contact the Board to request that information: https://www.ijc.org/en/contact
Will the IJC consider ending the shipping season early?
- That has been considered but it would have minimal impact on increasing outflow levels.