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Source: Watertown Daily Times

Anchoring sensibility: Government officials announce they will implement Plan 2014

Posted: December 12, 2016
Originally Published: December 11, 2016

After two years of negotiations, Canadian and U.S. officials have finally agreed to implement Plan 2014.

The International Joint Commission, a watershed boundary regulation board with members from both Canada and the United States, made the announcement Thursday. Groups committed to improving the health of the waterways between our two nations praised the news.

Plan 2014 calls for new regulations concerning the moderated flow of water along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The flows of these waterways are controlled through the release of water at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam between Massena and Cornwall, Ontario. These flows will more closely mimic natural flows of the river than they would under the previous plan.

The IJC oversees the regulation of these waterways. Officials admit that their previous policies, Plan 1958-D and Plan 1958-DD, have damaged ecosystems along the coast of Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River over the decades because the effects were not fully understood or considered when the existing regulation plans were promulgated.

These plans have not been updated for nearly 60 years. The pending changes have been a long time in coming. Plan 2014 demonstrates how reversing some of the adverse effects will improve the ecosystems of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

“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,” according to a story published Friday in the Watertown Daily Times. “Additionally, the plan could provide a $5.3 million annual increase in hydroelectric power and a $9.1 annual increase in recreational activity along the river and Lake Ontario. Water levels are slated to rise by approximately 6 centimeters over time.”

Opposition to Plan 2014 came from property owners on the south side of Lake Ontario, who fear it will result in high water levels that could lead to increased shoreline erosion and flooding. In recent months, shipping interests began to express concern over the plan despite the fact that the minimum shipping depth of the system would be maintained at all times and that, in high-water years, ships could carry even more cargo than they do now.

Establishing new regulations will result in increased electricity produced by the Moses-Saunders Dam. We have long advocated on this page that some of the additional revenue brought in as a result should go toward mitigating problems experienced by people living on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

As for the shipping industry, lower water levels may have a positive impact its operations. But that’s no reason to allow the ecosystems of two significant waterways to deteriorate further.

Representatives from American Rivers, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and Save the River met in October with the White House Council on Environmental Quality to expedite the implementation of Plan 2014. These groups deserve our appreciation for their efforts over the years to see this management plan come to fruition.

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, also should be commended for her staunch support for and work on behalf of Plan 2014. She understands how beneficial it will be for recreation, tourism and a healthy ecosystem in the north country, and it’s good to know we have an ally on Capitol Hill looking out for our interests.

Members of the IJC performed extensive research on this issue and devised a policy that takes us into the future. We look forward to enjoying the benefits of Plan 2014 in the years to come.