IJC defends decision to lower outflows from Lake Ontario

Aug 14, 2017

The decision to lower outflows from Lake Ontario is being criticized by shoreline residents who are suffering from flooding, but some are defending the move, saying safety of those on the St. Lawrence Seaway was on the line.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) reduced discharges from Lake Ontario by only 4 percent last week. Still, that was enough to make a major difference according to those on both sides of the Moses-Saunders Dam.

Property owners are outraged. Even though the lake has dropped by a foot since May, it's still 25 inches higher than it was at this time last year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the decision senseless and said the commission prioritized the shipping industry over homeowners.

But Tony David with the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board says it was actually about striking a balance.

"It had to do with conditions in the river, and getting feedback from the Seaway and also being mindful of other impacts as a result of higher velocities in the river," David said. 

Jean Aubry-Morin of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation says shipping conditions were becoming more dangerous every day that outflows were maintained at the record-sustained level.

"Gradually, the speed of the current that the vessel experienced increased over time," Aubry-Morin said. 

Aubry-Morin said the higher velocities also hurt the shipping industry because of speed restrictions that substantially slowed transit times for cargo.

The current outflows, while reduced, are still at record levels for this time of year.