Why is the wa­ter so low?

Pub­lic meet­ing on the fac­tors why Lake St. Lawrence is so low this year

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - TODD HAM­BLE­TON

LONG SAULT — There was plenty of frus­tra­tion and some anger be­ing ex­pressed on Tues­day night at a pub­lic meet­ing re­gard­ing low wa­ter lev­els in Lake St. Lawrence.

Res­i­dents of the re­gion had an op­por­tu­nity to tell their sto­ries about how the low wa­ter level on Lake St. Lawrence is af­fect­ing them and their neigh­bours; the con­cerns prompt­ing a town hall meet­ing held at South Stor­mont Town­ship Hall in Long Sault.

“I’ve never seen the wa­ter lev­els this low,” said Frank Som­merville, of the St. Lawrence Parks Com­mis­sion and one of the many speak­ers to take a turn at the mi­cro­phone. “It’s af­fect­ing our beaches, it’s af­fect­ing our busi­nesses from all of our com­mu­ni­ties. “Some­thing has to be done.” The meet­ing in­cluded a slide pre­sen­ta­tion by Jamie Dick­hout, al­ter­nate Cana­dian reg­u­la­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive with the In­ter­na­tional Lake On­tario-St. Lawrence River Board, who ex­plained how the wa­ter flow sys­tem in­volv­ing Lake On­tario and the river works.

And it had sev­eral politi­cians tak­ing a turn to ad­dress the crowd and of­fi­cials in at­ten­dance.

“I know this is­sue af­fects just about ev­ery­one in the room,” said South Dun­das Mayor Evonne Del­e­garde. “We have to find some so­lu­tions.”

The meet­ing was or­ga­nized by Cliff Stein­burg, di­rec­tor of the Ault Is­land Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion, and he was thrilled with the re­sponse.

“This is fan­tas­tic, I think it’s a great op­por­tu­nity, it’s an ed­u­ca­tional evening for all of us,” Stein­burg said. “The whole ob­jec­tive is to ed­u­cate our­selves on a very com­plex sys­tem, (and) why the In­ter­na­tional Joint Com­mis­sion makes the de­ci­sions it does. And, (of­fi­cials) will learn from us, how (wa­ter lev­els) af­fect us in this area. . . any­one liv­ing along Lake St. Lawrence or try­ing to en­joy the beaches, wet­lands, ponds or recre­ational boat­ing is well aware of the ex­treme low wa­ter lev­els.”

Res­i­dents con­sider it a huge is­sue, the wa­ter lev­els if not ad­dressed hav­ing an ef­fect on tourism, prop­erty val­ues and boat­ing.

Stein­burg said most people think the prob­lem has been caused by a hot and dry sum­mer, “but re­al­ity is (the IJC) is con­trol­ling the wa­ter level on Lake St. Lawrence,” he said.

Stein­burg said the IJC has ex­plained that Lake St. Lawrence is low is be­cause Lake On­tario is high, and there is an at­tempt to lower the level on Lake On­tario.

“The wa­ter level on Lake St. Lawrence and Lake On­tario is con­trolled by the Moses- Saun­ders Dam and Long Sault (Iro­quois) Dam and when the (wa­ter flow through the dam is in­creased) it acts like a vac­uum and pulls the wa­ter level down on Lake St. Lawrence,” Stein­burg said. “The rea­son this hap­pens is Lake St. Lawrence is a much smaller body of wa­ter. . . it’s a com­plex sys­tem that’s af­fected by many fac­tors: start­ing with the Great Lakes, rain and snow­fall through­out the sys­tem, wind con­di­tions and global warm­ing.”

Stein­burg said Plan 2014 was sup­posed to of­fer all of the people along Lake St. Lawrence, Lake On­tario and Lake Erie a more nat­u­ral flow of wa­ter.

He said ex­ces­sive rain­fall in 2017 caused high wa­ter lev­els and flood­ing, and Plan 2014 was al­tered to ad­dress high wa­ter in Lake On­tario.

“Ac­cord­ing to the IJC, wa­ter lev­els are still high in Lake On­tario, and this is why we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing low wa­ter lev­els again this year,” Stein­burg said. “For ev­ery inch they try and lower Lake On­tario, it low­ers the wa­ter level on Lake St. Lawrence by ap­prox­i­mately 20 inches.”

An IJC rep­re­sen­ta­tive told the crowd that people from Hamil­ton to Trois-Rivieres are af­fected by wa­ter lev­els in the sys­tem, and that it’s rare for lev­els to be this low in Lake St. Lawrence, that the last time lev­els were lower was 20 years ago, in 1998.

But one res­i­dent who spoke blasted the of­fi­cials, say­ing that the Lake On­tario prob­lems are be­ing floated down the river, that the huge pop­u­la­tion and num­bers of tax­pay­ers along the lake is why the prob­lem is be­ing pushed to the doorsteps of res­i­dents along Lake St. Lawrence.

There wasn’ t much push back from of­fi­cials who spoke. Though when things got heated, Stein­burg called for cooler heads.

“Hey, I’m a prop­erty owner too,’’ he said. “I can’t get my boat off my lift ei­ther. . . but we have to ap­pre­ci­ate all of the dif­fer­ent chal­lenges the IJC is faced with.”

Dick­hout said there will be some short-term re­lief, Oct.5-7, when Lake On­tario out­flow will be de­creased, a “one-time op­por­tu­nity” be­fore win­ter for res­i­dents to re­move their wa­ter­craft.

Dick­hout in her pre­sen­ta­tion ex­plained the IJC has 10 board mem­bers, five from Canada and five from the U.S., and that the Moses Saun­ders Dam is “the main con­trol struc­ture that we use to man­age the flows.”

She said it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the board can’t con­trol wa­ter lev­els, it can only in­flu­ence them by man­ag­ing Lake On­tario out­flows, that it reg­u­lates and ad­justs ac­cord­ing to con­di­tions on Lake On­tario and the St. Lawrence River.

She said Plan 2014 is the set of rules de­signed to man­age out­flows, rules de­signed to re­spond to weather and wa­ter sup­ply con­di­tions.

“We don’t ex­pect out­flows to be this high ev­ery year,” Dick­hout said. “We don’t ex­pect Lake St. Lawrence lev­els to be this low ev­ery year.”

Dick h out said that the board wants com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and feed­back, but that it’s im­por­tant for res­i­dents to “be pre­pared for un­cer­tain fu­ture con­di­tions.” tham­ble­ton@post­media.com twit­ter.com/Free­hold­erTodd

TODD HAM­BLE­TON/CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREE­HOLDER

Meet­ing or­ga­nizer Cliff Stein­burg (right) with Frank Hum­mell, pres­i­dent of the Moulinette Is­land Res­i­dents' As­so­ci­a­tion, at the Lake St. Lawrence low wa­ter lev­els pub­lic meet­ing on Tues­day night.

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