River board ponders water level rise

By Jessica Munro, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
River board ponders water level rise
Low water levels. Photo from the Morrisburg Dock showing the extreme-low water levels on Lake St. Lawrence along the Morrisburg Waterfront (The Leader/Blancher photo) PHILLIP BLANCHER

BROCKVILLE, Ontario – The body regulating flows on the St. Lawrence River is leaving open the possibility of temporary adjustments that would raise water levels and allow the removal of boats from Lake St. Lawrence.

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board said recreational boaters who navigate around the water of the St. Lawrence River, Lake St. Lawrence and adjacent rivers and lakes have experienced high and low water conditions that have made it a challenge to remove boats from the water as boating season comes to an end.

The board met on Friday, Aug. 27, to assess the conditions, weather forecasts and discussed the possibility of assisting with boat haul-out on Lake St. Lawrence, in the Cornwall area.

The board on occasion has helped with fall boat haul-out efforts by temporarily reducing outflow from Lake Ontario, which increased the water levels east of the Great Lakes.

Marina and shoreline dock owners would have a scheduled window of opportunity at the end of a given boat season to remove recreational boats more easily with such help from the board.

The board will meet again during the week of Sept. 6 to reassess water level conditions and to decide if it will assist with boat haul-out this fall.

Many uncertainties still exist that could affect water levels in the next two weeks, including upstream and downstream flows, basin inflow, and long-term weather forecasts, officials said.

Many Ontario conservation authorities, including the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority and Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, upheld Level One Low Water Condition Statements in locations around Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

A Level One Low Water Condition is an early indication of potential drought conditions.

On the United States side, a drought monitoring system stated that parts of New York State bordering the St. Lawrence River basin are in “abnormally dry” and “moderate drought” conditions.

“Although current forecasts indicate below average water levels will persist in the St. Lawrence basin through the fall, it is important to recognize the board stopped deviations from Plan 2014 and returned to regulation plan flows on July 17,” said Steve Durrett, United States co-chairman of the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board.

Since the return to the regulation plan flows, wetter summer conditions have caused Lake Ontario water levels to increase to near long-term average and the Lake St. Lawrence water levels have aligned closely with the level recorded this time last year, board officials said.

Board members say they are eager to find out what conditions will prevail and are hopeful that communities will understand the importance of taking the available time for better precision in order to make the right decision with the availability of Lake Ontario water.

More information on hydrologic conditions, water levels and outflows are available on the board’s Facebook page and website at www.ijc.org/en/loslrb.

This article was originally written for and published in The Brockville Recorder.

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