County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson wants to dive the fathoms of the plan and application of how water levels in Lake Ontario are controlled and get to the bottom of the flooding events of 2017 and 2019.
Ferguson tabled a resolution at Wednesday’s Committee of the whole meeting at Shire Hall on Thursday, calling for the federal and Provincial Governments to conduct a formal investigation into the flooding events of 2017 and 2019 in affected communities along the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, specifically the economic impacts and damage to infrastructure and that current method of controlling lake levels be evaluated and measured for effectiveness and verifiable impacts by the Federal and Provincial governments in conjunction with the Government of the United States of America.
Though the resolution does not blame Plan 2014 exclusively for the rising water levels seen throughout this spring and that of 2017, it does request an inquiry into the plan to assess if adjustments can be made and to minimize any damage caused from rising water levels in the future.
Plan 2014 was originally touted by the International Joint Commission (IJC) as a “modern plan” for managing water levels and flows, ultimately guarding against the changing climate and the accompanying extreme water levels.
On Thursday, Quinte Conservation announced forecasted rains last weekend in the Lake Ontario watershed and elevated water levels meant the authority was maintaining its flood watch for Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte.
As of June 12, the average Lake Ontario water level was recorded at 75.91 m and had remained relatively stable over the past week. This level is 3 cm above the 2017 peak and 1 cm below the highest 2019 water level.
“Lake Ontario will remain near seasonal highs for several weeks however water levels are expected to slowly decline into the summer,” Christine Phillibert, Quinte Conservation Water Resources Manager said in last week’s news release.
Quite Conservation reported outflows from Lake Ontario were increased last week to 10,400 cubic metres per second and that rate is is equivalent to the record high outflows recorded in 2017.
In tabling his resolution, Mayor Ferguson was careful to note that Whether coincidental or a cause, via the resolution he was asking that the plan be reviewed and considered.
Ferguson also added that climate change and an unseasonably damp spring, along with changes in hydrology and topography may be factors in Lake Ontario’s rising water levels. He also pointed out that eight counties in New York State have declared a state of emergency.
“I get concerns called in daily,” said Ferguson, “One was from an 80-year-0ld woman who was trapped in her house and had to call the fire department to extract her due to rising water levels.”
Ferguson noted many have complained about the incidence of water snakes swimming too close for comfort to some residents’ front doors.
“Brighton has put forward a resolution and our neighbouring municipalities are considering the same. I think not to request an inquiry into Plan 2014 and its possible effect on our current circumstances would be imprudent. It is our responsibility to residents of Prince Edward County,” added Ferguson.
No doubt there is shoreline damage to the full circumference of Lake Ontario with some County Roads such as County Road 12 already having lost a remarkable four feet to the lake.
Councillor John Hirsch said he empathized for shoreline owners who were devastated in 2017, completed mitigation strategies and saw those efforts get washed away two years later.
“What’s really discouraging is seeing people who already suffered in 2017 due to high water levels, and then put money into repairs that have now been washed into the lake,” said Hirsch. “Some people on the South Shore are having to wear hip-waders to get from where their car is parked to their house,” added Hirsch, in all seriousness.
Councillor Bill Roberts supported the resolution as put forward by Mayor Ferguson, stating he had never seen. on any single issue of this nature, as much resident or community investigative research on a subject.
“It’s quite impressive,” Roberts said. “By the way, what county on Lake Ontario has more shoreline than us? Nobody,” Roberts poignantly added.
“To be silent on this issue would be irresponsible given that the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is threatening to sue the IJC and the chair of the IJC has called for an emergency meeting to asses Plan 2014,” Roberts added.
Councillor Harper also agreed with the resolution, citing the damage Wellington has experienced in 2019 has already far surpassed that of 2017.