IJC Plan 2014 requires scrutiny, overhaul in wake of flooding

County of Prince Edward Mayor Steve Ferguson wants to get to the bottom of why there’s been two 100-year-flooding events in this part of North America in the last three years.

And quite frankly, so does everyone else.

Councillor Bill Roberts isn’t wrong when he said at Thursday’s Committee of the whole meeting the topic of high waters and the questioning as to why Lake Ontario has seen record levels in 2017 and then exceeded those high water marks in 2019 is a highly researched issue.

Given the rate at which lawyers are preparing lawsuits on both sides of the lake and the St. Lawrence Seaway, there’s at least some amount of evidence something’s amiss with how the International Joint Commission has been operating the shared responsibility of governing the level of Lake Ontario.

Until 2017, the outflows of the Lake were controlled by the IJC under plan 1958D which led to some high years and some low years in terms of lake levels But nothing like 2017 and 2019.

In 2016, after years of research by the joint American-Canadian body, a new plan, Plan 2014 was instituted in replacement of plan 1958D.

Earlier this month, Michael Riposo of Syracuse broke down the statistics in terms of lake levels in his column on Syracuse.com. Riposo owns a summer home on a piece of Lake Ontario waterfront near the Upstate community of Mexico, New York and had been monitoring the situation closely and for many years.

Aiming to illustrate that Plan 2014 is more than just bad luck, Riposo explained that when the plan went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, Lake Ontario outflows started rising and, by the second week, levels were already above the 100 year average.

And kept climbing.

Those levels stayed that way for an incredible 87 consecutive week span when, in Sept. of 2018, levels finally dipped back below the century average.

Of course, everyone knows where the lake stands today.

There’s been plenty of theory as to what’s happened over the last three years with regards to lake levels and certainly climate change must be investigated as to what role its played in the thousands of kilometres of eroded shoreline. Regionally, there’s been millions of dollars in both physical damage and lost of economic activity.

Locally, we have an idea what’s at stake.

A portion of Sandbanks at the northern portion of the provincial park won’t open this year and prospects for the alternative hot spot North Beach also look dim. Closed boat launches and washed out roadways are both a logistical nightmare and a cost on the Prince Edward County taxpayer.

Businesses such as my friend Todd Foster’s County Shores fishing centre and campground and other commercial waterfront businesses in Prince Edward County have taken a beating in 2019 and farmers with normally plantable acreage below the water line have also been hit hard.

An abundance of rainy weather certainly hasn’t helped matters much but the fact is, climate change or no, something has led to this situation in two of the last three years.

The public on both side of the lake deserve to know definitively why the lake is this high, who is to blame and what the strategy is on a moving forward basis.

Because Prince Edward County and other communities on Lake Ontario can’t take much more of this.