IJC Responds To Cuomo's Criticisms

IJC Responds To Cuomo's Criticisms

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The panel that regulates water levels on the St. Lawrence Seaway says the governor was using mislabeled information when he said they "blew it."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been critical of the way the International Joint Commission has handled high water levels that have caused flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The governor has accused the IJC of delaying releasing water downstream from the Moses-Saunders power dam in Massena.

Cuomo says in a letter to the IJC that its own data showed water levels to be high in July of last year and that they were expected to remain high for several months.

The governor said the IJC should have started releasing more water even before winter set in.

In its own letter, the IJC says the information the governor refers to was mislabeled on the IJC website. It was actually from April of 2016 and by July, water levels in the system were below average, mostly because of a lack of rain.

The IJC said it "found no justification to consider increased outflows at that time, as such action would have lowered lake levels even further below average." 

Last year, they point out, the governor declared a drought disaster in 24 New York upstate counties.

This year, the IJC says, water supplies -- rain and runoff -- were record setting.

IJC officials applaud the $22 million the state allocated to help communities, business and homeowners recover from flooding, but they cautioned that future climate conditions are uncertain and that extreme water levels could happen again and more often.

"The decisions people make when rebuilding after this disaster should be well informed," officials wrote. "Our coastal development needs to withstand extreme conditions, which are likely to occur again in the future."

A spokesperson for the governor issued the following statement:

“The facts are clear: The IJC had the ability to conduct proper long-range forecasting and release more water from Lake Ontario before the April storms began. They failed to do both. While the Governor has repeatedly called on the IJC to significantly increase outflows from the lake, the Commission seems determined to continue prioritizing commercial shipping interests over the safety of thousands of residents and families. We will continue to hold the IJC fully accountable.”

Whatever the reason for the flooding, those on and along the water are still waiting for relief.

We asked if they're seeing any change in the levels.

"Very little. Very little. A couple inches, one way or another," said boater Reid Strickland.

"But less stuff floating in the water. Originally, there was a lot of trees and docks," said boater Pat Strickland.

The letter from the IJC says it and its staff are available to Governor Cuomo and his staff to discuss things further. The statement from Cuomo's office doesn't mention that invitation.

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