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

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The International Joint Commission next month will hold public hearings on its new water management proposal — Plan 2014 — in several Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities, including Alexandria Bay.

The hearing in Alexandria Bay will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. July 17 at Bonnie Castle Resort and Marina, 31 Holland St.

Announcing the start of a public comment period Thursday, 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 are anticipated to lessen the negative effects of the wider range of water levels allowed under Bv7 compared with the current regulation plan.

For example, while 245.77 feet would be considered a “high trigger level” in 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 to 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 effects 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 because of 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 damage than 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 water levels relatively steady within a four-foot 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 governments 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.

Five other public hearings have been scheduled in addition to the July 17 hearing in Alex Bay:

n July 14 in Training Center 4-H of Cornell Cooperative Extension, 4487 Lake Ave., Lockport.

n July 15 at Ramada Jordan Beacon Harbourside Hotel & Suites, 2793 Beacon Blvd., Jordan, Ontario.

n July 16 at the Williamson Central High School auditorium, 5891 Route 21, Williamson.

n July 18 at the Best Western Plus Hotel Europa, 1240 Drummond St., Montreal.

n July 19 at the Ramada Inn and Conference Centre, 805 Brookdale Ave., Cornwall, Ontario.

Members of the public also may 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, Ontario.

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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