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In Both 2017 And 2019, Lake Ontario Communities Were Ravaged By Intense Flooding, Leading To Millions In Damages; Today’s Water Levels Are 19 Inches Higher Than November Average

Schumer Says Measures Must Be Taken NOW To Fend Off Threat Of Repeat, Historic Flooding; Specifically, St. Lawrence-Seaway Should Reinstate All Prior Safety Measures So That Outflows Of The Moses-Saunders Dam Can Be Increased Now

Schumer: Lake Ontario Communities Can’t Afford Another Year Of Devastating Floods

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today released a new letter calling on the St. Lawrence Seaway to take immediate steps, before the start of flooding season, to help prevent a third year of devastating floods across the Lake Ontario shoreline, including increasing outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.

In his letter, Schumer explained that last summer, in the midst of flooding season, when the Moses-Saunders Dam outflows were increased to record high outflows of 200 m3/s above the normal safe navigation flow limit (L), the Saint Lawrence Seaway accommodated the increased outflows by employing additional operational and navigation safety precautions such as speed controls in sections of the Seaway, a prohibition on meeting or passing vessels in certain areas, positioning a tug boat at some locks to assist vessels if needed, and reduced speeds to minimize vessel wakes. Schumer explained that while outflows now remain at L+200, not all of these same enhanced precautions are still being employed, indicating that outflows could be safely increased now above L+200 if these measures are reinstated. 

With Lake Ontario’s water level currently 19 inches higher than the average for this time of the year and a repeat of last year’s historic flooding looking likely, Schumer urged the Saint Lawrence Seaway to institute all the enhanced security protocols to enable increased dam outflows.

“After experiencing record flooding in 2017 and again last year, Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities are once again being threatened with sky-high water levels—so it is critical for the St. Lawrence Seaway to reinstate requirements that shippers use all safety precautions so that dam outflows can be increased before it’s too late,” said Senator Schumer. “Specifically, I’m urging the Seaway to again implement all of these measures and support increasing the outflows of the Moses-Saunders Dam. With the risk of a repeat of these immense damages looming, we must take every measure possible to protect communities along Lake Ontario.”

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the St. Lawrence Seaway appears below.

Dear Deputy Administrator Middlebrook and President & CEO Bowles,

I write to urge the St Lawrence Seaway to take immediate steps to help prevent a third year of devastating flooding across the Lake Ontario shoreline by agreeing to increase outflows through the Moses-Saunders Dam. This past summer during the period when outflows were increased to record high levels (L+200), the St. Lawrence Seaway accommodated increased outflows by instituting enhanced safety protocols to ensure safe shipping while enabling increased dam outflows to lower Lake Ontario’s water level.  However, these same enhanced protocols are not all currently being employed, indicating outflows can be increased now above L+200 if these protocols are reinstated. Therefore, I urge the St. Lawrence Seaway to again implement these measures and support increased outflows through the Moses-Saunders Dam. 

Lake Ontario’s water level is currently more than 19 inches higher than average for this time of year.  According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineer (USACE) long-term projections, both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie water levels are estimated to remain above historical norms for the remainder of this year, threatening to exceed the record high recorded December water level set in 1945 and increasing the likelihood of a repeat of the disastrous 2017 and 2019 flooding. It’s incumbent on St. Lawrence Seaway as a member of the International Joint Commission (IJC) St Lawrence-Lake Ontario River Control Board to increase outflows to the maximum now in order to draw down water ahead of spring runoff. 

I urge your immediate attention to this request so that outflows can be increased to reduce the potential for future flooding in lakefront communities.