One day after the U.S. Senate confirmed new members to the International Joint Commission, the Canadian government announced it has appointed three new members to the bi-national, water management organization.
The Canadian IJC seats had been empty for months, while the U.S. slots have been held for years by two hold-overs from the Obama Administration (along with one vacant seat).
The new Canadian IJC members include:
• Pierre Béland, an environmental scientist and founder of the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology
• Merrell Ann-Phare, a writer, attorney and co-founding executive director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources
• F. Henry Lickers, a Seneca Nation citizen who served for 32 years as the director of the Mohawk Council and now serves as the council's Environmental Science Officer.
The IJC is responsible for managing waters on the U.S.-Canadian border, and has come under fire in recent years for its management of outflows from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Former New York State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is the IJC's new U.S. chair. Joining her is Robert Sisson, head of ConservAmerica, and Lance Yohe, a former executive director of the Red River Basin Commission.
Many critics contend the IJC's new water regulation plan, approved in late 2016, caused the high water the lake system experienced in 2017 and is facing again this year. Lake Ontario is now 27 inches above average and is likely to rise about 5 inches in the next month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported Friday.
The lake is now forecasted to crest in early June at about 249 feet — just above the peak level recorded in 2017.
Those critics applauded the appointments and expressed hope that a new IJC can take a fresh look at the new water regulation plan, known as Plan 2014.
"This is what we’ve been waiting for," said Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson. "Now we have a quorum (majority). I truly believe Plan 2014 will be overturned."
Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey said repealing Plan 2014 would be the most sensible and cost-effective approach to fixing Lake Ontario water management.
I don’t believe it can simply be fixed," Godfrey said. "If you look back to previous plan, there were no issues. They don’t need to spend taxpayer money to do studies and find out the obvious — there was no flooding before and there was flooding after.
"Simply going back to the old plan would be the most logical thing," Godfrey added.
IJC members and other lake regulation experts have insisted Plan 2014 did not contribute to the flooding of either year, saying it was caused by high rainfall and other natural conditions. Plan 2014 was intended to create healthier coastal wetlands by producing greater fluctuations in the water level, which produces more biodiversity.