State standing by to help if lake, river levels keep rising

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 4:23 PM EDT
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LISBON, New York (WWNY) - With Lake Ontario a foot away from the flood stage seen in 2017, the state is standing by to help waterfront communities.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced agencies are keeping a close eye on the water levels on the lake and St. Lawrence River and are ready to deploy pumps, 25,000 sandbags, and other resources to local governments in need.

On Monday, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board recorded the lake level is over 247 feet, a foot higher than the historical average for this time of year.

At the same time, the level is a foot lower than the 2017 flood and 2 feet lower than the 2019 record.

The lake flows into the St. Lawrence River, which has also seen higher levels lately. There are debris lines and even a few docks still underwater.

Todd Miller is the director of the Lisbon Beach and Campground and says that while the water levels are lower now, earlier this week and last week, the river was certainly high on different parts of the property.

“Our boat docks down at the other end were submerged under water from the shoreline and I was afraid they were going to break off of the shore because of the pitch and the way the water was so high,” he said.

John Tebow has also been watching the levels in Lisbon.

“I would say we’re probably five inches, six inches higher than we were last year, but still not as high as 2019,” he said.

The state says forecasts suggest water levels may continue to rise, but they’re expected to remain below the record highs seen in 2017 and 2019.

Many riverside property owners have blamed the International Joint Commission’s Plan 2014 as the cause of extreme fluctuations in river levels.

Tebow thinks that the U.S. needs to have more say on IJC decisions.

“We only own a small portion of the river. I’m sure the Canadians really control more of it than we do. I think we can maybe lobby a little more harder for more sustainable levels throughout the year but honestly, the Canadian government is more, I don’t want to say to blame, but I think they have more to do with it than we do,” he said.