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RIVER WATCH 2020 # 7
The attached release from the International Joint Commission indicates that the Commission has approved increased St. Lawrence River flows in January and February of 2021. Any continuation of those flows into March and beyond will require further Commission approval. However please note the qualifier highlighted in yellow.
Prepared: December 16, 2020
The International Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Board to Implement Strategy to Deviate from Plan 2014 this Winter
Date: December 11, 2020
The International Joint Commission (IJC) has approved the Board’s request for authority to deviate from Plan 2014, and as conditions permit, outflows from the Moses-Saunders dam on the St. Lawrence River can be increased to exceed Plan 2014 flows.
The risk of high water on Lake Ontario in 2021 is moderate due to persistent high-water levels on Lake Erie and the upper Great Lakes. This will cause inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie to remain high over the coming winter months. The main driver of a high-water event in the Lake Ontario basin will depend on seasonal factors such as precipitation and snowpack runoff.
Since June, Lake Ontario levels have steadily declined to just above the seasonal long-term average. Levels remain well below those that would automatically grant the Board the authority to deviate from Plan 2014 outflows. The Board and IJC recognize the continued threats posed by high water supplies into the system and the risk of another high-water event in 2021. The Board will implement a deviation strategy to take advantage of opportunities that may arise through the winter.
The IJC has granted this authority under Condition J of its Orders of Approval, which allows for the testing of some regulatory deviation strategies from Plan flows. This authority will begin on 1 January 2021 and continue through the end of February. This regulatory strategy will be reassessed in February and could be revised with a request for further deviation authority from the IJC should conditions warrant. During this period flow limits are expected to pertain to low Lake St Lawrence levels, municipal water intakes and river ice formation. All deviation strategies, regardless of magnitude of impact, implemented by the Board in this time frame are intended to cumulatively reduce the risk of high-water impacts and balance the interests of other groups throughout the system.
There remains considerable uncertainty in the weather and water supply conditions between now and next spring. These natural, uncontrolled hydrologic factors are the primary driver of water level fluctuations on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. If basin conditions are extremely wet, and similar to those observed in 2017 and 2019, no deviation strategy will prevent water levels that can cause flooding and damage shoreline properties. Providing those types of benefits are beyond the reach of water regulation and are more reliably addressed through coastal resilience and planning.
Information on hydrologic conditions, water levels and outflows, including graphics and photos, are available on the Board’s website and posted to the Board’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/InternationalLakeOntarioStLawrenceRiverBoard (English), and more detailed information is available on its website at https://www.ijc.org/en/loslrb.
Rob Caldwell: (613) 938-5864 Rob.Caldwell@canada.ca
Bryce Carmichael: (513) 418-8562 ILOSLRB-USSection@usace.army.mil
The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board specifies the outflows from Lake Ontario, according to Plan 2014 as required in the 2016 Supplementary Order from the International Joint Commission. This plan was agreed to by the United States and Canada in December 2016 in an effort to improve environmental performance while maintaining most of the benefits provided to other interests by the previous Plan 1958-D, which was in use since 1963. In determining outflows, the Board, in conjunction with its staff, pays close attention to water levels in the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system and on the Great Lakes upstream, and to the effects on stakeholders within the basin. The IJC announced that they are reducing the size of the Board from 12 members to 6 members effective 1 December, 2020. The re-structured Board will continue to include one member each nominated by the Government of Canada, the Government of the United States, the Province of Quebec, the Province of Ontario and the State of New York and will include one additional member on the US side to ensure equal membership from both countries. Board members will continue to serve in their personal and professional capacity and consider interests of the entire Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system. The Board’s online membership page has been updated here to reflect this change. This re-structure does not fundamentally alter the process by which the Board makes regulatory decision. All 6 previous Board members have been asked to serve on an Interim Advisory Group (IAG). The IAG continues to attend meetings and their recommendations and input on regulatory decisions is still given significant weight in the Board’s final decision making process.
Water levels vary from year-to-year and throughout the year depending on weather and water supply conditions. Such variations benefit coastal wetlands and are critical to a healthy lake environment, but may at times and depending on individual circumstances increase the vulnerability of shoreline structures and reduce opportunities for recreational boating activities. The Board urges everyone to be prepared to live within the full range of levels that have occurred in the past and of those that may occur in the future. Based on historical observations and projected future conditions, at a minimum, Lake Ontario water levels are expected to range from a high of 75.92 m (249.1 ft.) to a low of 73.56 m (241.3 ft.) at infrequent intervals. However, it is also recognized that future climate conditions are uncertain, and more extreme water levels may be reached and these extremes may occur more often. Levels on the St. Lawrence River tend to vary more widely than on Lake Ontario. Also, these levels do not include the varying local effects of strong winds and wave action that significantly increase or decrease local water levels on both the lake and river, with temporary changes of over half a meter (two feet) possible in some locations.
For more information, please see the Board’s website (ijc.org/loslrb) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/InternationalLakeOntarioStLawrenceRiverBoard).To receive a weekly email about water levels and flows in the Lake Ontario–St. Lawrence River system, please send a blank e-mail message to
stlaw-Lfirstname.lastname@example.org with the word ’subscribe’ in the title and body of your message.
Posted December 17, 2020
RIVER WATCH 2020 # 5
I assume most of the subscribers to this release are well aware of the International Joint Commission’s commitment to review Plan 2014 given the flooding issues in 2017 and 2019. The IJC appointed a diverse Public Advisory Group made up of representatives from both the US and Canada. The reason for this release is to alert you to the fact that the IJC has also committed to seeking input from the public (note purple highlighted text). It will probably be a year or more before that happens but they have made the commitment. I would suggest that those affected by the flooding take the opportunity when it arrives to express your concerns and opinions.
Involving the Public in Reviewing Plan 2014
by JEFF KART, IJC, June 09, 2020
An ongoing review of Plan 2014 and the regulation of Lake Ontario outflows will be informed by a diverse Public Advisory Group of people from Canada and the United States. The 16-member group includes leaders from shoreline associations from both sides of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River along with representatives from boating and tourism groups, environmental organizations, local governments, commercial navigation, First Nations and hydropower in New York, Ontario and Quebec.
Plan 2014 is the regulation plan used by the International Joint Commission’s (IJC) International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to set Lake Ontario outflows.
Residents and the board have dealt with record-high water levels and river flows in two of the last three years.
The extremely wet conditions are beyond those that can be managed by any regulation plan.
However, the IJC remains committed to finding the best solutions possible for managing levels and flows, especially during periods of extreme climate conditions. To that end, the IJC allowed the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to deviate from Plan 2014 during the winter and into spring to reduce Lake Ontario’s rise without causing major damage to other stakeholders throughout the system.
When the IJC approved Plan 2014, it required a review of the plan’s performance within 15 years. IJC Commissioners, all of whom were appointed in May 2017, called for an “expedited review” after the record floods in 2017 and 2019.
The IJC has received about $3 million from Canada and the United States to investigate possible improvements to the regulation of Lake Ontario outflows.
The review will focus on gathering and analyzing scientific data to review the performance of the regulation plan and identify potential changes to best manage water levels under extreme conditions.
The effort will be managed by the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee, a sub-committee to the IJC’s Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, Niagara Board of Control and Lake Superior Board of Control. GLAM members provided nominations for the Public Advisory Group to guide the IJC’s appointment process.
As stated by IJC Canadian Chair Pierre Béland when the Plan 2014 expedited review was announced earlier this year: “The advisory group will create an invaluable, direct connection between the review and those impacted by water levels and flows throughout the system.”
The Public Advisory Group will assist review efforts by contributing knowledge about water level impacts along with input on the assessment methods used in the review. Group members also will help foster a dialogue between GLAM and affected interests and constituencies. The GLAM Committee further plans to seek input on the expedited review from the public at a future stage in the review process.
The GLAM Committee is responsible for providing the data, information and tools needed to support the board in decisions on whether it should recommend adjustments to Plan 2014. Any resulting changes to Plan 2014 would need to be approved by the IJC and agreed to by the governments of Canada and the United States. Plan 2014 was finalized and approved by the IJC in 2016 after more than 16 years of study. Two years of heavy precipitation followed in 2017 and 2019.
The first phase of the review began in February and is expected to take about 18 months. Information is being provided to the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board on how best to deal with existing near-record high inflows to Lake Ontario from Lake Erie and address high water conditions. A second phase will examine how Plan 2014 addresses extreme high and low water levels over the long term.
Jeff Kart is executive editor of the IJC’s monthly Great Lakes Connection and quarterly Water Matters newsletters.
Prepared: June 09, 2020
RIVER WATCH 2020 # 4
At the present time, the level of the St. Lawrence River appears promising from a “non-flood” perspective.
The factors on the plus side include:
- The Ottawa River peaked around mid April and has been declining in flow ever since. The decreased flow has allowed the agencies controlling the Moses-Saunders Dam and associated structures on the St. Lawrence River to increase outflows. As of Sunday, April 26, the outflow was set at 9,580 cubic metres/second.
- As of April 23rd, the net inflow into Lake Ontario from both the Niagara River and the watersheds of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River was 9,200 cubic metres/second.
- If we take the outflow at 9,580 cubic metres/second and subtract the inflow of 9,200 cubic metres/second, we are actually on the plus side of reducing the level of Lake Ontario and in turn the St. Lawrence River.
- If the outflow continues to exceed the inflow, we should not experience any additional high water related damage except for potential wind events that may increase levels for a short period.
On the negative side of the situation, considerations include:
- Lake Ontario water levels are currently still well above average but fortunately well below record levels. The other Great Lakes are either near or above record-high levels, therefore high inflow into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River will continue.
- Flows on the Ottawa River may increase due to mild weather increasing the snow melt or precipitation within the river’s watershed which extends from northeastern Ontario to western Quebec. Increased flows may aggravate the high water/flooding situation in Quebec and force the slowdown of outflows from the Moses-Saunders Dam. That would in turn maintain or increase the level of Lake Ontario.
- While we have been experiencing a relative dry spell, rain is in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The amount of precipitation is still unknown but will extend over a significant portion of the province. Should rainfall events increase in May, we may see a further rise in the level of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. That may bring us back into a potential high-water scenario.
The municipality will continue to monitor the various federal and provincial agencies for information about increasing/decreasing water levels and will keep residents informed. Sandbags can be requested by calling the municipal office and sand is available at Fire Station 1 in Maitland. Please remember social distancing during these trying times.
Any comments with respect to this information release should be directed to email@example.com. Future releases will be developed as conditions change or more information becomes available.
Prepared: April 27, 2020
RIVER WATCH 2020 # 3
Late yesterday, both South Nation Conservation and the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority released a Flood Watch for Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River, particularly from Kingston to Iroquois.
The warnings are based on a weather forecast that calls for a low-pressure system to move across Eastern Ontario, with rainfall amounts of 10 to 30 mm starting overnight and continuing into today, April 13, 2020. Strong wind gusts upwards of 115 km/h were predicted in the forecast.
Higher than normal water levels persist on both the lake and river, and further increases are expected. Lake Ontario is currently nearly 0.5 metres or about 20 inches above average for this time of year. The water level in Brockville on April 11, was approximately 11 inches above what it was on the same date in 2019.
Neither conservation authority is expecting wide spread flooding at this time. The notices are meant to provide advance warning to municipalities and residents in flood prone and low-lying areas as to the potential for localized flooding and erosion impacts.
Residents in flood prone and low-lying areas should continue to pay attention to wind and wave forecasts for approaching storms with high winds from the southeast, south and southwest, such as the event forecast for today and possibly into Tuesday. These are the conditions when the probability of localized impacts (e.g. flooding and erosion) is increased.
Augusta Township’s Municipal Emergency Control Group (MECG) sent a letter late last week to all shoreline property owners outlining the municipality’s position with respect to this year’s potential for flooding. Four piles of sand have been established at Fire Station #1. In keeping with COVID-19 advice, the four piles are meant to encourage social distancing for residents filling sandbags.
Any comments with respect to this information release should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Future releases will be developed as conditions change or more information becomes available.
Prepared: April 13, 2020
RIVER WATCH 2020 # 2
The arrival of spring has also brought changes to the situation on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) has been attempting to lower water levels by delaying the start of shipping until April 1 and by increasing the outflow at the Moses Saunders Dam beyond the discharge levels specified in Plan 2014.
With spring’s arrival, temperatures are warming, snow is melting and our precipitation is arriving in the form of rain. Today’s forecast calls for additional rain and strong winds that may cause wave action, particularly in this area. As a result, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB) advis es that Lake Ontario’s level rose by 3 cm (1.2 in) this past week. The lake level is 52 cm (20.5 in) above average for this time of year. It is anticipated that the forecast wet conditions will cause the lake levels to rise further during the coming week.
While the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds are contributing to rising water levels, the primary inflows are coming from the other Great Lakes via the Niagara River. Inflows from the Niagara River for the week ending yesterday totaled 10,440 cubic meters/second. The historical average inflows for the same period totaled 8,800 cubic meters/second. During this same current period outflows totaled 9,450 cubic meters/second. Outflows were higher earlier but had to be reduced due to increased flows on the Ottawa River and to maintain Lake St. Louis below flood levels. The ILO-SLRB has indicated that they will maintain outflow as high as possible and will continue to adjust flows as necessary, according to conditions on the St. Lawrence River.
Yesterday, South Nation Conservation released a Watershed Conditions/Flood Outlook Statement specific to the St. Lawrence River.
In the statement, residents are advised to exercise caution when near the river as the forecasted weather may rapidly increase river flows and cause slippery banks. Parents are encouraged to explain these dangers to their children.
Residents in flood prone or low-lying areas, historically susceptible to flooding, should take the necessary precautions to protect their property, such as:
- Ensuring sump pump is clear, in good working condition and has a backwater valve on it
- Portable backup generator and pump
- Ensuring downspouts are clear and the outlet is at least 3 m from the dwelling
- Removing or securing items that might float away as flows increase
- Removing valuable items from basements or lower floors that could be subject to flooding
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy
- Familiarize yourself with your municipality’s emergency preparedness plan (see Augusta Township’s Emergency Management Plan)
Augusta Township’s Municipal Emergency Control Group (MECG) has met to update members on current and forecast high-water conditions. The MECG are formulating a 2020 action plan with respect to potential high-water levels on the St. Lawrence River. Once completed, residents will be advised of the municipality’s planned course of action.
If anyone has any comments with respect to this information release, please send an email to email@example.com. Future releases will be developed as conditions change or more information becomes available.
Prepared: March 20, 2020
From: Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2020 10:37 AM
Subject: Watershed Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook & Updated Flood Watch
Warm Temperatures and Rain in Forecast Will Cause Water Levels to Increase Across the Rideau Valley Watershed
The short-term forecast is calling for rainfall amounts of 10 to 15 mm and high temperatures near 15 degrees Celsius on Friday, followed by below zero temperatures on Saturday, and then milder temperatures in the days following. No significant rain is in the short-term forecast after Friday. With Friday’s rain and high temperatures, water levels and flows across the Rideau Valley Watershed are expected to increase everywhere and then decline again slowly with the cooler weather in the following days. Some specific areas of concern are highlighted below:
A FLOOD OUTLOOK is being issued for the following areas:
• Properties around Bob’s Lake, Christie Lake and Tay River in the upper Rideau Valley Watershed. In these areas, local residents should expect spring like water levels and flows. Parks Canada staff are closely monitoring the water levels in Bobs Lake and Christie Lake, and operations at the Bolingbroke Dam will take place as required, to balance the levels in Bobs Lake and Christie Lake.
• Properties around Wolfe Lake in the upper Rideau Valley Watershed.
• Properties around the smaller creeks and streams in the lower Rideau Valley Watershed, including the low-lying roads and waterfront properties adjacent to the Jock River (near Richmond)
• and any connected creeks or ditches.
A FLOOD WATCH continues for the low-lying areas along Stevens Creek and Taylor Drain in the Village of North Gower; however, water levels are expected to be somewhat similar or possibly less than those that have already been seen this spring.
Extreme caution should be exercised by everyone when near local waterbodies. Parents should inform their children of the risks and provide appropriate supervision.
Residents in flood prone or low-lying areas, historically susceptible to flooding, should continue to take the necessary precautions to protect their property, such as:
• Ensuring sump pump is clear, in good working condition and has a backwater valve
• Ensuring easy access to a portable backup generator and pump
• Ensuring downspouts are clear and the outlet is at least 3 metres from the dwelling
• Securing items that might float away as flows increase
• Removing valuable items from basements or lower floors that could be subject to flooding
• Keeping emergency phone numbers handy
• Familiarizing yourself with your municipality’s Emergency Preparedness Plan
This watershed conditions statement is in effect until April 2, 2020, at 5 p.m. and will be updated at that time unless the forecast or conditions change.
RVCA Watershed Conditions Statements:
- Water Safety – High flows, unstable banks, melting ice or other factors that could be dangerous for recreational users such as anglers, canoeists, hikers, children, pets, etc. Flooding is not expected.
- Flood Outlook – Early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts, calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions that could lead to high runoff, cause ice jams and/or lakeshore flooding or erosion.
- Flood Watch – Flooding is possible in specific watercourses or municipalities. Municipalities, emergency services and individuals in flood prone areas should prepare.
• Flood Warning – Flooding is imminent or already occurring in specific watercourses or municipalities.
Posted March 19, 2020
From: South Nation Conservation Authority
Sent: Monday, March 17, 2020
Subject: SNC MEDIA RELEASE: Watershed Conditions – Flood Outlook Statement UPDATE
Posted March 17, 2020
From: South Nation Conservation Authority
Sent: Monday, March 9, 2020 2:56 PM
Subject: SNC MEDIA RELEASE: Watershed Conditions – Flood Outlook Statement
Attached is the latest media message from South Nation Conservation.
WATERSHED CONDITIONS: Flood Outlook Statement
March 9, 2020
Environment Canada is forecasting a general freeze-thaw cycle for the next 7 days as well as the potential for 10 to 20 mm of rain starting this evening and lasting through to tomorrow, March 10th. An additional 10 to 20 mm of rain is also possible at the end of this week, starting Thursday, March 12th.
Recent precipitation and warm temperatures have melted some of the snow pack, causing water levels to rise above normal in most parts of the watershed for this time of year.
Based on current forecasts, continued melt is expected with increased runoff from rain.
Ice cover in rivers and streams may breakup as a result of warm temperatures and higher flows, increasing the risk of ice jams and associated overbank flooding.
Higher than normal water levels may cause nuisance flooding in low-lying areas.
Residents are advised to stay away from rivers as the forecasted weather may rapidly increase river flows and banks might be unstable and slippery. Parents are encouraged to explain these dangers to their children.
Residents in flood prone or low-lying areas, historically susceptible to flooding, should also take the necessary precautions to protect their property, such as:
- Ensuring sump pump is clear, in good working condition and has a backwater valve on it.
- Portable generator and backup pump.
- Ensuring downspouts are clear and the outlet is at least 3 m from the dwelling.
- Removing or securing items that might float away as flows increase.
- Removing valuable items from basements or lower floors that could be subject to flooding.
- Keep emergency phone numbers handy.
- Familiarize yourself with your municipality’s emergency preparedness plan.
This statement is in effect until Tuesday, March 17th, 2020.
SNC monitors water levels and weather forecasts as part of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Program. Updates are provided as conditions change.
Please visit www.nation.on.ca for more information. To provide feedback with respect to changes in water related conditions please email firstname.lastname@example.org, post on our Facebook (/SouthNationConservation) or Twitter (@SouthNationCA).
Posted March 16, 2020
From: Great Lakes and Water Policy Section (MNRF)
Sent: Monday, March 9, 2020 1:21 PM
Subject: Release of ‘Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy’
Ontario is taking action to protect people and property by strengthening the province’s preparedness for flooding because the safety of the public and the protection of our communities is our number one priority.
In response to Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding report released last November, and the call from the communities around the province to address the issue of flooding, Ontario has released Protecting People and Property: Ontario’s Flooding Strategy, available here. The Strategy introduces a series of new and enhanced actions that will help Ontario better prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant flood events.
You can also visit our updated webpage, ontario.ca/floods to find emergency preparedness information, including safety and flood mitigation tips for homeowners.
We look forward to continuing to work with you to build a more resilient Ontario.
Water Resources Section
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Posted March 16, 2020
RIVER WATCH 2020 # 1
While most of you are probably better aware of what is happening on the river than I am, I came across two news items that I felt warranted the early production of a River Watch article.
The first is the fact that, with the end of the shipping season on December 31, 2019, the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence Board has been granted approval by the IJC to deviate from Plan 2014 by increasing outflows from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to 10,700 cubic metres per second. This outflow is 300 cubic metres per second higher than what was maintained in the summer and early fall of 2019.
The high flows will continue for as long as possible and until ice formation resumes on the St. Lawrence River. During ice formation, flows are normally reduced until there is a solid ice sheet. Once that occurs, flows can be increased but not to the degree as it would be with an open water situation.
Secondly, the IJC’s Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Adaptive Management (GLAM) Committee seeks to document and better understand the impacts associated with the 2019 high-water levels. This is part of the committee’s long-term efforts to support the IJC’s International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board and International Lake Superior Board of Control in evaluating existing strategies for managing outflows from Lake Ontario and Lake Superior.
Information provided by shoreline properties owners is critical for ensuring that scientific and engineering tools used to evaluate regulation plans under a range of wet and dry conditions accurately reflect the high-water impacts that have been experienced.
The GLAM Committee has developed an online questionnaire for shoreline property owners. The questionnaire builds on the Committee’s 2017 efforts for the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River shoreline, where more than 1,300 people responded.
Results from the 2017 survey:
I have been in touch with a GLAM member who indicated that the questionnaire will remain active until the end of January 2020. Take a look at the questionnaire and decide for yourself if you would like to take the time to provide the Committee with your information. Talk to your neighbours who might have experienced some effects from last year’s high-water to determine if they are interested in completing the questionnaire.
If you do not want to complete the questionnaire, I would still recommend going to the website indicated. The site contains a GLAM Committee report and fact sheet relative to the 2017 survey.
The online questionnaire can be found at: https://ijc.org/en/glam/watershed/questionnaire/high-water-levels-2019
If anyone has any questions, please send a message to this email address.
Prepared: January 14, 2020