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Source: Watertown Daily Times

Plan 2014 to be enacted following two-year deliberation


Posted: December 8, 2016
Originally Published: December 8, 2016

Plan 2014, an international plan to return the St. Lawrence River to more natural flowing patterns, has been officially enacted.

The International Joint Commission, a watershed boundary regulation board composed of members from the United States and Canada, announced the news today, following two years of deliberation between the Canadian and U.S. governments.

The plan would update Plan 1958-DD, which has not been changed in more than 50 years. Under that plan, the river and Lake Ontario’s flows were adjusted in order to accommodate the needs of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam, located near Massena and Cornwall, Ontario.

The problem, however, is that the plan does not take natural occurrences into account, such as changes in temperature and ice cover over a number of years. Dereth B. Glance, an IJC commissioner, has said that current regulations have “compressed” water flow that lies between high and low levels of the lake and seaway. As a result, wetland ecosystems have been harmed significantly, and northern pike populations have plummeted.

Plan 2014, which took over 16 years and $20 million to develop, could provide an estimated 40 percent restoration of wetlands, 39 percent restoration in northern pike populations and a 16 percent rebound in black tern, which is now an endangered species. Additionally, the plan could provide an $5.3 million annual increase in hydroelectric power and a $9.1 annual increase in recreational activity along the river and Lake Ontario.

The plan will utilize adaptive management once it’s fully implemented, allowing for close analysis of its effects, such as potential flooding in some sections of the river and lake.

Several environmental coalition groups, as well as U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, have been vocal in their support for the plan.

In October, American Rivers, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, and Save the River met with the White House Council on Environmental Quality in and effort to expedite implementation.

Ms. Stefanik said Plan 2014 will help benefit commercial and recreational use of the river as well as provide better protection against invasive species.

“Plan 2014 is critical to our local economic growth in addition to good environmental policy, and I applaud this important decision,” she said in a statement.

Lana Pollack, chair of the U.S. section of the IJC, said it’s unlikely that the plan could be repealed or significantly changed quickly under the upcoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump, should change be pursued. Ms. Pollack noted that, under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, an agreement must be reached on possible changes between both governments and the IJC. One government cannot break away from the plan with its own set of adjustments.