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IJC to hold public hearings for new Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River water management plan

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MASSENA - The International Joint Commission next month will be holding public hearings on its new water management proposal — “Plan 2014” — in several Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River communities, including Cornwall, Ont., and Alex Bay.

The hearing in Alex Bay will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 17 at the Bonnie Castle Resort and Marina, 31 Holland St, and the Cornwall hearing is scheduled for July 19 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Centre, 805 Brookdale Ave..

Announcing the start of a public comment period today, the IJC introduced the addition of “trigger levels” to its Bv7 water management proposal, which will allow the binational water regulator to deviate from the regulation plan and take “extraordinary actions” when lake water levels exceed or drop below certain points.

These high and low “trigger levels” will vary greatly depending on the season, and is anticipated to lessen the negative impacts of the wider range of water levels allowed under in Bv7 compared with the current regulation plan.

For example, while 245.77 feet would be considered a “high trigger level” mid-November, levels as high as 248.12 feet would be allowed in early-June under the new “Plan 2014.”

Low triggers will vary from as low as 243.18 feet in late-January through early-February and as high as 244.91 feet for most of June and early-July.

Through Plan 2014 — which is essentially Plan Bv7 with triggers for deviation — the IJC aims to “substantially” reduce the negative impacts on shoreline properties and recreational boating projected under Bv7, said Bernard Beckhoff, the commission’s Canadian-sector spokesman.

Even with Plan 2014, however, the annual cost of shoreline protection is estimated to increase by $2.2 million due to a higher risk of flooding and erosion damage.

Under Bv7, IJC had projected that coastal property owners would spend a total of $3.1 million more annually to prevent or mitigate damages than what they are spending now on shoreline protection.

For this reason, lakeshore property owners have been urging the IJC to keep its current management plan, 1958-DD, which aims to keep the water levels relatively steady within a four-foot water level range — 247.3 feet being the upper-limit and 243.3 feet, the lower-limit.

While addition of a seasonal high and low range to Plan Bv7 also slightly reduces the environmental benefits expected under the IJC’s previous proposal, Mr. Beckhoff said the environmental improvement projected under the newly-introduced Plan 2014 is “nearly the same” as under Bv7.

Also part of IJC’s new proposal is an “adaptive management strategy” that will be funded by the U.S. and Canadian government to allow the commission to better monitor trends in water supply and evaluate its water regulation plan more frequently.

The public comment period ends Aug. 30 and the IJC intends to make a recommendation and seek concurrence from the two federal governments this fall.

Public hearings have also been scheduled for July 14 in Lockport; July 15 in Jordan, Ont.; July 16 in Williamson and July 18 in Montreal.

Members of the public may also attend, but may not participate in, technical hearings on the new water regulation proposal that will be held from July 15 through July 19 in Toronto, Rochester, Oswego, Montreal and Akwesasne.

Records of hearings and more information regarding IJC’s proposal will be made available online on the commission’s website: http://ijc.org/en_/losl

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