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Author Topic: Water Levels  (Read 1027 times)

Mac Attack

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Water Levels
« on: Feb 13, 2022, 09:18 PM »
I went back and looked for the old thread.
Couldn't locate it, so I started a fresh one.

In the BN today -

As Lake Ontario plan revision looms, regulators create new flood forecast tool
Thomas J. Prohaska Feb 13, 2022

The committee working on an overhaul of the plan that governs water-level management in Lake Ontario has developed a computer model that may predict the impact of higher water on lakefront property.

For the first time, the International Joint Commission has technology that can attempt to forecast how many homes and businesses would be flooded in a given area by a specific rise in water levels.

IJC Public Affairs Officer Ed Virden said Tuesday that the first phase of proposed policy changes, zeroing in on response to high water, will be released for a 60-day public comment period around the end of February.

But in the meantime, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management Committee, which insiders call GLAM, has created a tool to help lake-level regulators make better decisions.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, an IJC subsidiary, has only one way to adjust the level of the lake: altering the amount of water allowed to flow past the Moses-Saunders Dam at Massena, down the St. Lawrence and into the Atlantic Ocean.

According to articles posted Tuesday on the IJC website, the computer tool is based on research into what the water level conditions were on specific flood-damage days in specific locations during the floods of 2017 and 2019.

"This data formed the basis of the tool, which projects the likely real-world impacts of high water over the coming six months on shoreline properties, commercial shipping, recreational boating, municipal infrastructure and other interests. It then shows how a given deviation strategy may change those impacts for better or for worse," wrote Steve Orr, a Rochester science writer working with GLAM.

"For instance, the tool shows the number of waterfront homes that could be hit by flood waters on the lakeshore versus the riverbank if a given deviation was implemented," Orr wrote.

The tool has not been posted on any public website, although Orr's article included a couple of screenshots.

Wind and precipitation changes make flood forecasting difficult, Virden said. "This is a model that relies on data that needs constant care and feeding," he said.

The IJC's current policy, called Plan 2014, sets limits on outflows under various circumstances limits that the IJC began to disregard after coming under political pressure in the wake of the 2017 and 2019 floods.

Critics from local legislators up to then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Sen. Charles E. Schumer contended the board had botched the flood response by not letting enough water leave the lake soon enough.

In 2019, Cuomo ordered a lawsuit against the IJC to try to recover the state's expenses for responding to flood damage. The suit was transferred from state court to federal court, where U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford put the case on hold in October so the sides could try to settle it.

The IJC has consistently held that the floods were caused by unusually wet weather snowy winters and rainy springs filling the lake with water from the streams and rivers that flow into it.

But at the same time, the Lake-Ontario-St. Lawrence Board has taken a more active approach to water level management in the past two years.

This winter, for instance, the board has deviated from the Plan 2014 limits to allow larger outflows than the plan prescribes for the winter months.

As a couple of heavy snowstorms have come through the region, the board has increased the outflow rates eight times in the past 15 days, according to its website. Virden said one motive for doing that is to promote a stable ice cover near the dam and prevent ice jam flooding.

President Donald Trump appointed a new slate of American members to the IJC in 2018, including former Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin of Clarence as co-chair. In 2020, the commission ordered an "expedited review" of Plan 2014.

The first phase of that project, which was assigned to GLAM, is almost done and will be released within a few weeks, Virden said Tuesday. The final phase is slated for 2024.

GLAM's work was assisted by an 18-member Public Advisory Group that met virtually with the committee more than two dozen times.


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