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Restore Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River

Image of a lighthouse on the St. Lawrence River.

Lighthouse on the St. Lawrence River

Victory! In December of 2016, the International Joint Commission (IJC) of the United States and Canada unanimously approved Plan 2014—a modern water level management plan that will restore the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Plan 2014 - A Modern, Balanced Approach to Lake Ontario Water Levels

Developed over the course of 14 years with input from scientists, academia, government agencies, environmental organizations, and members of the public, the IJC has adopted a new approach for managing water levels known as Plan 2014. Plan 2014 is returning water levels to a more natural cycle while managing extreme highs and lows. Plan 2014 is a more balanced approach that considers impacts to the environment, shoreline communities, recreational boating, hydropower production, and the economy.

Plan 2014 Will Restore the Coastal Environment

Frequently changing water levels will give the meadow marsh a chance to regenerate, thus restoring critical habitat and helping reestablish dwindling populations of threatened mammal, bird, and fish species. Wetlands also serve as buffers, which filter pollution and protect water quality. Plan 2014 has the potential to:

  • Increase meadow marsh habitat by 40% allowing vital bird, fish, and mammal populations to thrive;
  • Restore Northern Pike populations and increase fishing opportunities;
  • Increase Black Tern and other marsh-nesting bird populations, thus increasing bird-watching opportunities; and
  • Reestablish muskrat habitat

Plan 2014 Stabilizes the Shoreline

Plan 2014 will restore wetlands that protect against wave action and flooding. Plan 2014 will help to rebuild our sandy shorelines that have been swept away and replaced by large rocks and stones.

Plan 2014 Benefits the Economy

Recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming are dependent upon healthy lakes and rivers attracting tourism and driving local economies. Plan 2014 will:

  • Extend the recreational boating season. Avoiding the rapid draw-down and extended low tide period will increase boating opportunities and generate additional revenue for local economies;
  • Improve commercial shipping. Natural flow cycles reduce shipping delays caused by unusually low water levels;
  • Enhance hydropower production in the United States and Canada;
  • Maintain sustainable populations of wildlife, which is essential for local economies to generate revenue from recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and bird-watching; and
  • Benefit the economy of the Great Lakes region. Every dollar spent restoring the Great Lakes region nets a return of two dollars to benefit the economy, according to a 2007 Brookings Institution cost-benefit analysis.

Updated by bsmith 12/8/17