Rising Lake Levels – Plan 2014

by Joe Durocher

We should all be thankful for Cheryl Gallant, the Conservative MP in the riding of Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke for staying on top of this issue. I have been following Plan 2014 for the past few years with great concern. The last few years we have seen Lake levels increase to the point where we are seeing so much damage to shorelines, properties and now many areas are overflowing. Although the response from many officials has been to simply point to climate change, others have felt the actions behind Plan 2014 were more of the cause.

There is a greater likelihood Canadians will get answers to their flood questions now that the newly appointed U.S Commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC) are looking into Plan 2014, and its impacts on water levels. I am particularly encouraged by U.S. Section Chairwoman Jane Corwin, who was confirmed in her position May 29th. She immediately started the process of looking for answers. Previously, a member of the New York State Assembly for a district that was flooded in 2017, Corwin is familiar with the problem of property damage caused by high water.

Plan 2014 is a controversial plan to raise water levels in the Great Lakes watershed, which affects the Ottawa Valley. It was approved in December of 2016 by Trudeau and Obama in the dying days of the Obama Presidency.  Controversial from the outset, it was signed during the period between the date of the election of the new U.S. President, November 8th, 2016 and the date Donald Trump was sworn into office, January 20th, 2017. In the U.S., the legitimacy of signing the document during the “lame duck” period has called it into question, particularly after flooding started in 2017, with calls for Plan 2014’s repeal.

Plan 2014 is an agreement that changed a regulating system which had been in place on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River since 1958. Plan 2014 says it is designed to more closely mimic the lakes’ natural ups and downs, and adds muskrats, fish, and other wildlife to the list of interests regulators must now consider when they decide how much water to release.

The new regulation holds back additional water during the winter at the Moses-Saunders dam located on the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario, and Massena, New York. The entire Great Lakes watershed was backed up this year. One of Plan 2014’s many goals is to create 64,000 acres of wetland to fight climate change. Property owners were not asked if they wanted their front yards turned into swamps. Another goal is to provide more electricity to the United States.

Canadians only found out about Plan 2014 from reports in the American media. I have little faith in the current Liberal government, which blames everything on climate change. Some so-called Canadian experts do not even understand the process by which water flow is controlled from the Ottawa and St. Lawrence to reduce the impact of flooding in Montreal. Water is held back in the Ottawa River to let the St Lawrence River drain and vice-versa.

Lake St.-Louis, where the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers meet near Montreal, is already swollen with rainwater and spring runoff. Lowering Lake Ontario, with its large surface area, by just one centimetre translates into a 10-centimetre rise in Lake St.-Louis.

The newly appointed Chairperson of the Canadian Section of the IJC has been quoted as defending Plan 2014, but residents of the Ottawa Valley deserve to know if Plan 2014 increased the flooding along the Ottawa River. Did holding back more water in the Great Lakes, as required under 2014, make flooding worse along the shores of Lake Ontario when heavy rains fell? Was water held back in the Ottawa River watershed to allow the St. Lawrence to drain into Lake St. Louis?

While the Liberal Party may feel it can control any Canadian investigation into flooding, an American investigation would be independent of Trudeau’s interference. If annual flooding is the new normal regardless of which failed government policy is causing the flooding, the Federal Government has the legal and moral obligation to compensate flood victims. Plan 2014 was never brought before Parliament. There was no discussion or debate regarding the cost, including who would pay for losses due to flooding, or federal aid to deal with other problems it might cause.

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