Pressure mounts on IJC to stave off possible 2020 Ontario flooding

The 12 Mile Creek dock at Wilson Tuscarora State Park were closed due to high water levels in this photo from 2018.

In response to recommendations backed by U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, the International Joint Commission’s chairs expressed appreciation for the Government Accountability Office’s draft report, entitled “Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Plan: Improved Communication and Adaptive Management Strategy Could Help Address Stakeholder Concerns.”

“We appreciate the GAO recognizes that the International Joint Commission (IJC) is a binational organization and that decisions of the Commission require agreement by a majority of Canadian and U.S. Commissioners,” wrote Jane Corwin, U.S. Section Chair, and Pierre Béland, Canadian Section Chair in a letter to Barbara Patterson, assistant director of GAO. “Under the Boundary Waters Treaty, the Commission acts as a unitary body, taking the interests of stakeholders in both countries into consideration and seeking solutions that are in the best interest of both countries.”

The report recommended three items, including incorporating best practices for public relations.

“The major challenge the IJC in this regard is to restore the trust of property and business owners who have been harmed by high water …,” read the letter. “As part of the adaptive management process, the IJC has established a public advisory group to involve leaders from stakeholder organizations in the review of Plan 2014.”

The second recommendation involved creating written agreements between the IJC and other “St. Lawrence Seaway entities” to share information.

“The IJC is compiling a list of additional entities and will explore formal data and information sharing arrangements with them,” the letter read. “Negotiating such agreements can be a lengthy process, but we intend to make further progress by December 31, 2020.”

The final recommendation was that the U.S. and Canadian Commissioners should work to incorporate “key elements” and “essential characteristics” of their management process into “a comprehensive adaptive management strategic plan for Plan 2014.”

IJC responded in the letter that their committee (GLAM- Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Adaptive Management) “has begun to revise its adaptive management strategic plan.”

“However,” the letter noted. “Changes in the hydroclimate, economic uses or social values may also generate concerns about the performance of the regulation plan. In such cases, we cannot identify the specific considerations that may determine the need for change in the future.”

Senators Schumer and Gillibrand had urged the IJC to follow the recommendation of the GOA in their own letter last week.

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