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River Watch 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 10

With substantially reduced river levels and the level of Lake Ontario on a steady decline, this will probably be the last River Watch for 2019 and hopefully forever.

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board will be increasing the level of Lake St. Lawrence over the Thanksgiving weekend. Lake St. Lawrence acts as a reservoir for the Moses-Saunders Dam and has been below normal levels all summer. The increased levels will allow boaters the opportunity to remove their boats for winter storage. Please monitor our web site and Facebook page for more information closer to the actual date. A news release is also available on the ILO-SLRB website and Facebook page.

Similar to 2017, the Board is asking for information from shoreline property owners as to the extent of damages as a result of the 2019 high water levels. The following information is from their news release and Facebook page:

“A questionnaire has been developed that allows impacted shoreline property owners to report directly on their experiences in 2019. The questionnaire includes opportunities to describe the types and extent of their high water impacts, as well as upload photos to illustrate those impacts. Responses will be summarized by the GLAM Committee as part of its reporting to the ILOSLRB and the IJC and will also be used to improve models that are used to assess potential impacts under a range of water level conditions. Further information, including a link to the questionnaire itself, is available on the GLAM Committee website. Property owners are encouraged to complete the questionnaire as soon as the extent of their high water impacts are available.”

If you do not want to complete the questionaire, I would still recommend going to the website indicated. The site contains a GLAM Committee report and factsheet relative to the 2017 survey.

If anyone has any questions, please email Hans Werner-Mackeler, Community Emergency Management Coordinator at emergplan@augusta.ca.

Prepared: September 10, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 9

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board increased the outflow through the Moses-Saunders Dam at Cornwall to 10,400 cubic metres/second on June 13, 2019. This is the same maximum outflow that the Board went to in 2017. The Board has considered increasing outflows but has not done so as of this date.

While residents have noted a slight decline in river levels it is certainly not the decline that most would like to see particularly with some of the wind events of late. The attached Weekly Water Update, dated June 28, 2019, helps to explain why water levels are not declining as rapidly as most would hope.

While the outflow is currently at 10,400 cubic metres/second, combined inflows from Lake Erie and the Lake Ontario watershed totaled 11,070 as of June 28th. The river will not start to see a significant decline in elevation until those inflows decline as well.

While we have been getting significant rain events within the Lake Ontario watershed, the primary reason the inflows from Lake Erie are still high can be attributed to the other Great Lakes. The attached chart shows the levels of the Great Lakes as of June 21, 2019. As you will note, Lakes Huron, Michigan and Erie were all well above seasonal norms. Lake Superior is not as high, but it can and has been managed via control structures located in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario/Michigan. The only outlet for the other three lakes is via Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. There are no control structures on the Great Lakes between Sault Ste. Marie and Cornwall. We will therefore not see a significant local decline until those lakes have reduced their elevations.

This morning, I received an email from a resident who had noted a large pleasure craft proceeding at speed upriver yesterday evening. The resident was able to determine that the craft was moving along at just over 20 kph.

I contacted our local OPP detachment to pass along the information and was advised of the following procedure to report speeding watercraft:

  1. Try to determine the identity of the vessel (i.e. name), take down a description (length, colour, outstanding features, etc.)
  2. Immediately contact the OPP Regional Centre via 1-888-310-1122 and provide the particulars
  3. OPP will advise the nearest OPP marine unit of the situation.

Please keep the municipality informed if you have any issues with this procedure.

Prepared: July 02, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 8

As the attached Weekly Water Updates reflects, the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board is making some headway on reducing water levels. While it will be a while yet before Lake Ontario starts to show a significant decline (Monday evening and the overnight precipitation will have an influence) the increased outflow at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall is showing up on the river. Levels are down but residents should remain vigilante. If we receive a wind event (from the southeast, south or southwest) we could see a wind surge that may bring waves against shoreline properties. The same winds on Lake Ontario could force more water down the St. Lawrence River thereby artificially increasing river levels for a period of time.

The attached chart shows outflows finally exceeding inflows. Outflows are planned to be increased on Thursday to a maximum of 10,400 cubic metres per second. This is the same peak discharge achieved in 2017. Notices to Shipping have been sent out warning mariners of the increased flows and special arrangements to assist cargo vessels with lockage have been set up.

For those with damage to their residences and furnishings, the Canadian Red Cross may provide assistance. The registration number to call is 1-800-863-6582. Claims are normally verified through the local municipality.

Prepared: June 12, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 7

Lake Ontario has now exceeded the 2017 high of 75.88 metres. The level is expected to slowly rise for at least another week. As noted previously, the river level at Brockville exceeded the 2017 high on several occasions over the past two weeks and again on Sunday afternoon. Most of the high levels were due to wind effect on both Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The following chart, produced by the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) on May 31, shows the inflows from Lake Erie and the Lake Ontario watershed. Outflow at the Moses-Saunders Dam was increased to 9400 cubic metres/second on June 03, 2019. The ILOSLRB has indicated that further increases in outflow will be made as soon as possible.

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board, in a news release dated May 27, 2019 (available on their website) provided the following comment on the high-water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River:

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 75.88 m (248.9 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.”

Augusta Township, based on the Board’s aforementioned comment, would encourage residents with residential, shoreline or other structural issues as a result of the 2017/2019 high water situation to seek advise from someone such as an engineer while the levels are still at the 2019 peak. An engineer may be able to provide residents with advice about improvements to the following (not all inclusive) to negate or minimize damage in the event of future high-water occurrences:

  • Hydrostatic water entry into basements and crawlspaces (including water proofing)
  • Raising the height of basements or crawlspaces
  • Raising or relocating utilities
  • Re-locating or raising septic systems affected by the higher water table
  • Increasing the height of retaining walls or increasing the stabilization of shorelines
  • Changes to docks and accessory structures
  • Feasibility of installing a drainage system around the residence that allows for the retention of a lower water table via an external sump system

A number of residents have expressed concerns about the speed and resulting wake size of passing pleasure craft. Commercial shipping has not been an issue since they appear to be following the speed restrictions noted below. The following information was recently provided by the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management (OFMEM):

  • The St-Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) control navigation of commercial vessels. The SLSMC has issued Notices to Shipping limiting the speed of commercial vessels. They can monitor the speed of commercial vessels electronically.
  • The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) are the controlling authority for small pleasure craft. However, enforcement for Ontario rests with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The CCG can issue a Navigation Warning or NAVWARN at the request of municipalities. As a point of interest, the CCG base at Prescott is the issuing authority for this area.

The CCG has already issued a NAVWARN on May 10th covering the river from Kingston to Cornwall. It is available on their website and is broadcast over the air. The message states that “mariners are requested to use caution in the area, navigate at a safe speed and minimize wake in order to avoid damaging shore properties, particularly when meeting or overtaking”.

Augusta Township staff are in the process of determining what is required to ensure OPP have the authority to enforce speeds and pleasure craft distances from shore.

At the present time, most marine agencies are attempting to educate boaters similar to what the CCG are doing. If you have a pleasure craft pass your residence at a high rate of speed or that is causing wake issues, you might want, if possible, to take a photograph or video of the boat. Please contact your local OPP detachment to determine if they can then pursue the matter.

Memo from St. Lawrence Seaway System – Notice to Shipping No. 17

If anyone has any comments with respect to this information release, please send an email to emergplan@augusta.ca.

Prepared: June 03, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 6

As of Monday, May 20th, the level of Lake Ontario was still 4.3” below the record set in 2017. The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB) has indicated that the level of Lake Ontario is expected to continue to rise over the next several weeks and may exceed the 2017 peak. Unfortunately, the level of the St. Lawrence River at Brockville has at times exceeded the 2017 peak levels for the past three days. Levels are up to 4 inches above the 2017 peak. Some of this may be due to wind surge.

Outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall have been increased. The ILOSLRB has indicated that further increases in outflow are expected as conditions allow.

The raised river levels are causing issues for property owners. Many who were affected by high levels in 2017 have sandbagged and are using multiple sump and portable pumps to keep water out of basements and crawl spaces.

A number of residents who did not have major issues in 2017 are now experiencing water issues despite the river being below their residences but not below the bottom of their basement or crawlspace. The high river level is causing a phenomenon known as hydrostatic pressure. The high levels cause the normal water table surrounding homes to rise, thereby forcing water into basements and crawlspaces (through sump holes and any minor cracks in the foundation walls or floor). To help counter this issue, residents should ensure they have a good sump pump with at least one backup unit (preferably a battery backup unit should the power fail).

Increasing winds are also causing concerns about shoreline and lawn erosion. A sandbag wall can help prevent this situation. For those individuals with a sea wall or a firm shoreline, another approach would be to construct a flashboard wall that can be tied into solid objects or earth works at a higher elevation. This approach consists of rough finish ½ or ¾” plywood. The height would vary depending on the height of the sea wall. A minimum height of 24” should counter wave action. The plywood is attached to 2×4’s at the base which are in turn attached to the concrete wall or to stakes driven into the ground. The top of the plywood should also be tied in by 2×4’s. Then a 2×4 can be angled from the top 2×4 to the ground and secured with a stake. Periodic sandbags would add additional support.

A supply of sand will continue to be maintained at the MERC Hall in Maitland. For those requiring sandbags for residential protection, please contact the municipal office. Sandbags for other purposes are also available locally or the office can provide a list of sandbag suppliers.

Sent: May 21, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 5

By all indications, the next few days are ones that the adage “Hope for the best, plan for the worst” can certainly be applied to.

From a weather perspective, a “Texas Low” pressure system moved into the province yesterday. While expected to predominately track through northeastern Ontario, it will also have a direct effect on eastern Ontario. Precipitation amounts in the 20-40 mm range are forecast for our area. The attached Weather Network chart shows the degree of expected impact.

map of ontario showing how much rain certain area are expected to get

This storm system, if as severe as predicted, will have a multi-pronged effect on high water levels in our area. Forecasts are also calling for strong winds, waves and potentially storm surge. Residents should expect to note fluctuating water levels throughout the weekend.

The Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watersheds may receive anywhere from 20 to 40 mm of rain. That precipitation will have a direct impact on lake and river levels, aggravating the already high levels over the short term.

The system tracking through northeastern Ontario may bring 20-60 mm of precipitation. As well as causing any remaining snow to melt faster, the water will work its way down the Great Lakes system and end up in Lake Ontario at some point in the future. That water will help maintain high levels on Lake Ontario and in turn the St. Lawrence River.

To further complicate the situation, the storm will also impact the Ottawa River watershed. That watershed is already seeing increased flow effects in the Mattawa area. This storm will further aggravate that situation. With additional water coming down the Ottawa River, the increased flows may cause water levels in the Montreal area to rise again. If that happens, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board may have to reduce outflows from the Moses-Saunders Dam. Current outflows are 7600 cubic metres/second.

Update: Overnight Thurs./Fri., flows were reduced to 7400 cubic metres/second. A further reduction to 7000 cubic metres/second is to occur at 0900 Friday morning.

Residents should remain vigilante to changing water levels and adjust their protective measures (sandbag barriers, weights on docks, etc.) accordingly. Sand for sandbagging is available at the MERC Hall.

If anyone has any questions with respect to this bulletin, please email emergplan@augusta.ca.

Sent: May 10, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 4

As of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board’s May 6th information release, Lake Ontario was at 75.51 metres. The lake was 51 cm or 20.1 inches above the average but 14 cm (5.5 inches) below the level set on the same date in 2017. As importantly, the lake is 37 cm (14.6 inches) below the highest level recorded on May 25, 2017. That level was 75.88 metres.

As of last night Lake Ontario outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam has been increased to 7,000 cubic metres/second. Further adjustments will be made in accordance with Plan 2014.

The weather forecast projects precipitation starting Wednesday evening and ending early on Thursday will bring 20-50 mm of rain to Eastern Ontario. If the full 50 mm is received within the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River watershed, this will have an impact on water level increases.

A Notice to Shipping reducing speeds on the river was issued on April 26. A second Notice was sent out on May 01, 2019. Both notices advise shipping that “vessel speeds will be monitored closely and there will be zero tolerance for vessels exceeding the speed limit”. Having observed a couple of ships this afternoon, they appear to be following the directives. If you do notice heavier wave action, particularly at night, from a passing ship please note the time of passing so that we can follow up with the appropriate authorities.

Residences affected by the high water situation in 2017 have all been sandbagged by their owners. Should the river level start to approach the high of 2017, the municipality has sandbags available for year round home protection. Please contact the municipality and a representative will be in touch. We also have a supply of sand established at the MERC Hall in Maitland for anyone who needs it for flood protection.

Sent: May 06, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 3

As of today, the level of Lake Ontario is at 75.38 metres above sea level which is 0.01 metres above the lake’s flood stage. The lake is still 0.43 metres or 17” from its peak level of 75.81 metres sent in 2017. Given the amount of inflow from the other great lakes and the precipitation forecast over the next few days and into early next week, the lake level is expected to continue rising.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB) increased the level of outflow at the Moses-Saunders Dam yesterday to 6100 cubic metres/second. As flows on the Ottawa River subside, it is hoped that St. Lawrence River outflows can be increased further.

On April 26, 2019 a Notice to Shipping was issued that implemented a vessel speed reduction along the St. Lawrence River. Residents are advised that wave action will still occur from passing ships. However, if you notice waves from a passing ship in excess of what would now be normal, please email emergplan@augusta.ca with the information. Please note the time of the ship’s passing and if possible, a description of the vessel.

Several residents in Augusta Township who were affected by the peak flows of 2017 have put in place sandbag retaining walls in preparation for increased flows.

A stockpile of sand is available at the MERC Hall in Maitland for any residents filling sandbags.

Sandbags will be available to residents whose residences are imminently threatened subject to an inspection by the municipality and approval by a municipal official. Residents wanting to protect anything other than their immediate residence (i.e. docks, shoreline, boathouses, cottages, etc.) can obtain a LIST of sandbag suppliers from the township office. Local hardware stores and lumber yards may also stock sandbags.

The attached chart, produced by the ILO-SLRB outlines the current situation on Lake Ontario and on the St. Lawrence River. Updated charts are available on their Facebook page.

Also today, South Nation Conservation released their Flood Watch: St. Lawrence River – Update # 1.

Sent: May 01, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 2

Environment and Climate Change Canada are forecasting upwards of 40 mm of rain over today and Saturday.

According to the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board, Lake Ontario levels are expected to further increase. The expected increase is a result of the forecast precipitation, inflows from the upper great lakes, and reduced outflows due to the flooding situation in Montreal. The flow reduction from the Moses-Saunders Dam and the situation in Montreal are a direct result of the flooding currently occurring on the Ottawa River and its tributaries.

April 25th Lake Ontario outflows were at 5700 cubic feet/second as compared to 7600 cubic feet/second on April 18th.

The current water elevations are also causing concerns with respect to wave damage from passing ships. As a result, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation will be sending out a Notice to Navigation today requiring ships to reduce speeds by up to 3 knots between the Eisenhower Locks at Massena and the outlet of Lake Ontario. If water levels continue to increase, we will probably see additional speed reductions.

If anyone has any questions, please email emergplan@augusta.ca and someone will get back to you.

Sent: April 26, 2019

RIVER WATCH 2019 # 1

Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River water levels are on the rise. The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILO-SLRB), in a recent release, stated that “there is a potential for a relatively significant and rapid rise in Lake Ontario levels”. The anticipated rise is stated to be well within the confines of Plan 2014.

As of April 18, the lake was 23 cm or 9.1” above the average.

A number of factors are contributing to the rise in levels:

  • Recent rainfall projections for Southern Ontario over the long weekend called for 30 to 60 mm. Locally, rain gauges in Spencerville and Brockville recorded 32.4 and 37.2 mm respectively between April 18 and April 20, 2019.
  • Lake Ontario is receiving slightly higher flows from Lake Erie than what is the average (ILO-SLRB report)
  • According to local newspapers, the gates of the Iroquois Dam have been closed. Recreational water craft will not be able to use the dam to move up or downstream. The Iroquois Dam is used for flood management by Ontario Power Generation. Gates will be adjusted to control the level of Lake St. Lawrence between Iroquois and Cornwall.
  • Outflows from the Moses-Saunders Dam at Cornwall are being adjusted as the flows in the Ottawa River watershed increase. The reduced flows at Moses Saunders are meant to help minimize flooding at Montreal and Quebec City. Outflows on April 18 were noted as being 7,600 cubic meters per second. The outflow for the previous week was 8,660 cubic meters per second. The long-term average outflow for last week was shown as 7,190 cubic meters per second.

During a flood conference call on Sunday, April 21, a representative of the ILO-SLRB indicated that there were no issues from a flooding perspective on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. There is no indication that levels will reach the 2017 peak elevation given the current inflows and weather forecasts. In order to repeat the 2017 situation, the Lake Ontario watershed would need to receive 2 or 3 major storms similar to 2017.

Augusta Township personnel will continue to monitor water management agency reports and the actual local situation. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

Sent: April 22, 2019

Following the spring high water levels on the St. Lawrence River in 2017, Augusta Township initiated a River Watch newsletter in 2018. Periodic emails from the municipality informed subscribing riverfront property owners of water levels on the river during the April/May period. The municipality is considering initiating the same newsletter for 2019 if water levels begin to rise above normal operating levels.

If you are a riverfront property owner and would like to be included on our distribution list please email emergplan@augusta.ca. The email needs to include the following information: civic address; homeowner’s name(s); email address and a contact telephone number (this is optional). All information given will be kept private, including email addresses.

Going forward, the newsletter will also be posted here.

Sent April 9, 2019