Reader claims Plan 2014 response disingenuous

The letter in the June 27 edition of the Picton Gazette from the Co-Chairs of the Lake Ontario-St Lawrence River Board (the Board) continues the narrative that the Board has been spinning  this spring and, in fact, since the Flood of 2017.

“The flooding is not caused by Plan 2014 but by exceptionally wet weather and high inflows” they contend.

This is a disingenuous argument.

One of the objectives of Plan 2014 is to keep water levels high in Lake Ontario during the winter when in earlier times they would have been allowed to decrease.  There are benefits to keeping the water levels high in winter, benefits to the shipping lines from a longer season, and to greater electricity generation and sales at the Moses Saunders dam.  The stated objectives of plan 2014 even include sops to environmental causes like increase in wetlands and recreational boating. The consequential costs of these benefits were estimated to be $10 million per year in increased shoreline damages.  Plan 2014 went into effect in January 2017.

The great Floods of  2017 and 2019 must cause the Board to reconsider Plan 2014.  In simplest terms, keeping the water level high during the winter leaves no place for excess water to go when even modestly wetter that usual conditions occur in spring.  It’s playing Russian roulette with unpredictable weather.  Once the flooding starts in Montreal and the Lake Ontario outflow must be curtailed in consequence like this spring, there is nowhere to put the water.  To be clear, BEFORE the flooding started this spring, the lake level was already one foot ABOVE the 100 year average for that time of year.  Had the Board actively pursued a policy of lowering the lake level merely to AVERAGE in the two years since the Flood of 2017, we would not be in the miserable situation we are in today along the Lake Ontario shore.  Imagine the lake level today being one foot lower than it is now… crisis averted.

A similar effect occurred in 2017.  Lake levels began rising immediately after implementation of Plan 2014 in January of 2017.  The levels were rising BEFORE the exceptional rains that spring, and once again there was nowhere to put the water except to let Lake Ontario flood.

Let’s just add up the cost to municipal infrastructure around Lake Ontario from the Floods of 2017 and 2019.  Then let’s add the cost to shoreline businesses that are under water and cannot operate normally or at all.  Let’s not even consider the cost to individual residents who the Board seems to have little regard for. Let’s not even consider the environmental catastrophe that has occurred from polluting the lake with silt, sewage and debris.   Let’s just ballpark these costs and say that they easily amount to many hundreds of millions of dollars and counting.  Where is the accountability of the Board for these consequences.  These costs, having now occurred twice in three years since the advent of Plan 2014, make a nonsense of the cost/benefit analysis of Plan 2014.

Plan 2014 must be now thought of as an expensive but failed experiment.  And yet, in none of the communications from the Board, including in their letter to the Gazette last week, do we hear that they have learned something or are prepared do anything other than circle the wagons and be defensive of their Plan.  It is all an act of God they say.  Its your fault for not being prepared.  Perhaps they believe that catastrophic floods every two years means that’s they are doing a good job.  Perhaps this regulatory body, having existed in the shadows since 1958, has been too captured by the corporate interests in the shipping industry to care about anybody or anything else.

Zenon Lewycky

A shoreline resident of Prince Edward County