River board ‘optimistic’ 2017 & 2019 flooding won’t repeat in 2021

The International Joint Commission controls the flow of water through dams in Massena.
The International Joint Commission controls the flow of water through dams in Massena.(WWNY)
Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 12:17 PM EST
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WASHINGTON - The International Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River Board says it’s optimistic that 2021 won’t be a repeat of 2017 and 2019 when it comes to flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Board members say they’re hopeful that weather conditions the rest of this winter and spring won’t cause a damaging rise in Lake Ontario levels this year.

Even so, they say, they’ve been reducing lake level this winter in case the weather turns wet.

“Somewhat drier weather conditions over the past several months coupled with favorable river ice conditions and continued high outflows from Lake Ontario have caused a decline in the lake’s level, such that it is now a few centimeters below the seasonal long-term average,” board members said in a release.

They say they’ve maximized outflows – which are above some of the limits set in Plan 2014′s – and have lowered lake levels to 3 inches below what they would normally be under the plan.

Board members say they’ll continue to maximize outflows through the end of the month.

They say the risk of high water “remains a moderate possibility, but less likely than the risk was last spring at this time.”

The risk, they say, is due to very high water levels on Lake Erie and the upper Great Lake, even though they are lower than they were a year ago. Added to that are a chance of heavy precipitation and a high spring runoff.

Board members say that if conditions become extremely wet as they were in 2017 and 2019 “no deviation strategy will prevent water levels that can cause flooding and damage to shoreline properties.”

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