Summer 2004 Meeting Questions and Responses
By The Study Team
New regulations will only be as good as
the model that is tested. My concern is
after implementation. Is there a follow-up
plan to evaluate what has been done and
to identify any gaps?
- The Study has gathered a lot of
strong scientific information and
developed many different models.We
will make recommendations to the IJC
about how to keep the information
alive after the Study to monitor how
new plans fair. A follow-up plan will
cost money to alleviate some of the
gaps that are discovered along the
way. Costs are a political issue.
The system will not heal itself immediately.
How are you going to ensure that the information
you develop in the Study gets to the people
that are affected?
- We will ensure that final results
and information generated by the Study
are placed on the Study website and
are available in hardcopy form to
anyone who requests a copy. We have
been and will continue to let people
know that information is available
through our newsletter, media relations,
and at our public meetings and workshops.
Social and cultural views of the River
are important both to Aboriginal peoples
and others. Can you take those factors
into account in your Study?
- Several meetings have taken place
with First Nations to assure that
their specific concerns about social
and cultural factors are considered.
What is the Study Board's response to the
- That report is based on a 50-year
history of water regulations and the
institutions responsible for regulation
during that time. Many of the issues
raised in the report fall within the
mandate and jurisdiction of the International
Joint Commission (IJC) and possibly
the International St. Lawrence River
Board of Control. The report has been
submitted to the IJC; more recently
it was discussed with the IJC and
the Study Board in a joint workshop.
Will public input be sought regarding how
the new plans should be managed?
- Yes, the Study will hold extensive
and basin-wide public meetings in
the Summer of 2005. It is expected
that similar public meetings will
be held by the IJC in 2006. We are
gathering input during presentations
to interested groups when requested
Why are you including the Upper River with
the Lake? The Upper River area has different
problems than the Lake. Why are they included
- Although they are discussed together,
the more detailed evaluations consider
them separately. We have reviewed
our work on the Upper River with several
experts in the area and have had very
positive feedback on the work that
has been done.
What is your ability to regulate the Lake?
How much control do you have?
- We cannot completely control the
level of the Lake since we can only
control what goes out, not what comes
in. The revised plan will attempt
to manage the levels given revised
acceptable outflows and estimates
of possible inflows. We can't stop
the very highs and we can't stop the
very lows, but we can offset them
a little with a robust plan. We want
to avoid damage, but there is no way
to keep the Lake or the River permanently
at optimum levels, given the various
water supply scenarios that naturally
occur in the basin. Particularly during
sustained wet or dry periods, our
ability to regulate to the satisfaction
of all stakeholders is extremely limited.
What are you doing about abrupt changes?
We want stability in the system.
- This is a dynamic system. It is
not always possible to maintain a
stable water level. Our objective
is to produce regulation options that
minimize abrupt changes caused by
Mother Nature, minimize abrupt flows
and meet the needs of the various
Why can't more controls be put on the system
to regulate it better?
- Additional dams or control structures
are not included in the mandate given
to the Study by the International
Joint Commission. Such structural
changes are specifically not in the
scope of the Study. In any case, additional
structures might only complicate the
regulation of an already complex system
and governments would not approve
such a structure because of the potential
disruption and damage to the system.
Such structures would likely not pass
Do any interests have priority over other
- The intent of the Board is to
provide net benefits to the affected
interests without creating disproportionate
harm to any one interest. Keep in
mind that to gain improvements some
tradeoffs might be necessary between
Has the Study been in contact with the
Great Lakes Governors regarding the diversion
of water? How does water withdrawal relate
to water levels?
- That's a separate issue. The primary
factor in supplies right now is Mother
Nature. It is not within the scope
of the Study to get involved with
the discussions of water diversions
from the system except to say that
we hope and are working to ensure
that whatever plan we have will be
robust enough to handle both high
and low water supplies based on current
levels, flows and forecasts.
Are you going to update the Department
of Environmental Conservation and the
Army Corps of Engineers regarding your
findings and recommendations?
- The Army Corps of Engineers is
involved and the Department of Environmental
Conservation (D.E.C.) is represented
on the Study Board. The Study will
update both agencies on anything related
to their activities.
What will the end result of the Study look
like? How will it work?
- The purpose of the Study is to
formulate revised regulation plan
options and criteria. Options are
being developed and they will be the
end result of the Study. The workings
of the plan will be developed once
the International Joint Commission
selects an option.
Is no loss to any faction an attainable
- At any one point you may have
a loss. The idea is to reduce the
losses and gain as many benefits as
possible. It's a complicated issue,
but there are many more interests
being studied now than ever before.
At this time, the scientists and engineers
involved with the Study believe that
a new plan can be developed that will
be better for all stakeholders.
We must consider lowering the water more
in the winter so that when spring rain
occurs we are not in a delicately high
water situation already. Comments?
- We have the research and information
to model this idea and will do so.
There will be a price to pay for the
benefits of drawing the Lake down.
The model will help to determine the
tradeoffs that will be required and
we will have to assess how much draw-down
is reasonable in light of all interests.
Winter drawdown is important in terms
of fish production. Sometimes when
winter ice forms at the wrong levels,
there is a larger fish kill. In 1964
and 1965 large numbers of fish were
found dead due to water levels.
Coastal Processes Technical Work
Not only do we have to fight the forces
of nature but regulatory bodies too. In
the past, one could easily put in a groin
or a load of concrete. Is any assistance
available in terms of regulations and
obtaining permits to protect shorelines?
- This issue is beyond the scope
of the Study, but meetings are planned
in 2005 with regulatory agencies to
demonstrate Study products that may
help streamline the permitting process.
What effects do storm surges have on the
- Wind driven events can cause the
lake levels to rise rapidly in one
or more areas of the system. These
are most common in the late fall and
are factored into the Study's flood
and erosion prediction system models.
Regarding erosion in the Eastern Lake Ontario
area, why have things been so bad with
water levels since the 1930s?
- Eastern Lake Ontario is a complex
area. The supply of water into Lake
Ontario has been much greater than
in the early part of the 20th century.
The eastern portion of Lake Ontario
has therefore suffered more due to
greater supply coming into the lake
in comparison to the 1930s when the
beaches were very wide. Shore protection
also has a negative impact to the
natural process of beach formation
so it adds a dynamic complication.
We have built 100 feet back on the property
but since the 1940s the shoreline continues
to erode. Comments?
- This is not uncommon. Erosion
is a natural process around the perimeter
of the Great Lakes. It is not good
news but it is not due to the control
of water levels. It would be useful
to look at the history of lake levels.
You built during very low lake levels.
Over the past 50 years we have entered
into an era of larger amounts of water
coming into the lake system, noticeable
since the 1950s. Levels are a function
of natural processes. Levels would
have been even higher without any
control at all. Erosion will continue
naturally and the only question is
whether we can slow it down a little
with water regulation regimes.
What has the Study reported about winter?
What is the erosion impact of ice coupled
with wave action?
- Ice cover during the winter can
actually reduce wave action and thereby
reduce erosion. However as temperatures
increase in the spring, chunks of
ice can increase the amount of scouring
that occurs during wave action. This
process is complex and the Study's
modelers are attempting to formulate
new ideas of how to regulate the water
levels during the winter to benefit
Where is the economic value due to loss
of property value to the shoreline property
owner when levels are low?
- Erosion occurs at all lake levels
but is generally accelerated during
higher lake levels. It is therefore
possible that a property could lose
value during low water periods especially
if a home was located very close to
the shoreline. The Study evaluated
the cost and time at which shoreline
protection would be required at a
given parcel. Regulation plans with
lower water levels defer the need
for shore protection whereas those
plans with higher water levels accelerate
the need for shore protection.
What about the economic value contributed
by the shoreline property owners? Why
isn't there a performance indicator regarding
the taxes property owners pay and the
economic value we add to the region?
- The economic value of shoreline
property owners to a region and the
property taxes they pay is well beyond
the scope of this study. The economics
of the study are based on a comparison
of alternative regulation plans and
the economic impact of each plan with
respect to each other.
How many places have been put off of the
tax rolls because of erosion?
- We could consider taxes, but we've
been focusing more on direct expenses.
We focus on measurable economic data
to compare plans, not completely quantify
every dollar spent. We are looking
at compromise and trying to balance
between all interests. This information
was not collected. Regardless of the
regulation plan selected, it will
not bring back any properties already
lost because of erosion, so information
on lost properties would not help
in plan selection. We focused on measuring
the future economic impacts to existing
properties, which could be impacted
by changes to the regulation plan.
As a property owner on the eastern shore
of Lake Ontario, spring erosion is my
biggest concern. Riprap is ineffective.
Why can't something be done in anticipation
of high waters in April caused by storms?
Why can't we drop levels in the winter?
- To answer the first part of your
question a well designed and constructed
riprap structure is generally the
most preferred method of shore protection
due to its effectiveness and affordability.
If you have experience with an ineffective
riprap structure it is likely due
to it being improperly designed, constructed
or maintained. The second part of
your question pertains to the abilty
to control winter water levels in
anticipation of high spring levels.
The problem with dropping the winter
lake level too low is that it may
not recover in the spring and summer
thereby having a major impact on lake
and river interest groups that rely
on adequate water levels during the
spring through fall period. Furthermore,
the system simply cannot be operated
in a manner that would change water
levels in a way that would prevent
damages from storms and unforseen
metorological events. However as part
of the study we will be making recommendations
that allow for quicker operational
changes to the system based on improved
Are you studying erosion caused by the
Fast Ferry in Rochester?
- No, it is not in the Study's mandate,
but people are making the ferry aware
of their concerns through their communities.
Is the money I've spent protecting my property
being included in your studies?
- Yes, it is factored in as part
of the economic models. One aspect
being considered in the evaluation
of regulation plans is the impact
they will have on the need and cost
to strengthen or repair/replace existing
protection. For example, if a proposed
plan led to a greater frequency of
high water levels during stormy seasons,
damage to shore protection would be
accelerated and the protection would
need to be replaced more frequently,
with an economic cost.
Commercial Navigation Technical
Why is the shipping season two months longer
than before regulation?
- The length of the shipping season
is beyond the scope of the Study.
Why is there a need for higher water levels
potentially towards the end of the year
for commercial shipping?
- Water levels typically have a
seasonal variation to them. In general,
Lake Ontario levels tend to rise from
around January to June and then fall,
depending on basin water supplies,
from June to December. During this
fall season, there is a major movement
of grain through the system for export
to Europe. Also during this time,
vessels are making their last trips
through the system before the Seaway
closes for the season in December.
. Requests for higher levels, usually
downriver, occur infrequently and
are normally for short periods of
time. These requests are usually made
when the actual supplies are short
of the anticipated or forecasted supplies.
Is the water kept high strictly because
- Lake Ontario levels are not made
high for shipping interests. If levels
are high, it is a result of high supplies
into the Lake or restrictions on outflows
due to downstream conditions. In the
past 50 years, supplies have generally
been high. However, the water levels
are lower under the current regulation
plan than they would be without the
What is the economic justification for
shipping west of Montreal?
- Shipping is an inexpensive mode
of transportation when compared to
alternative modes such as truck and
often rail. Ships move such bulk commodities
as grain, iron ore, petroleum products,
manufactured iron and steel and coal
through the Seaway system to a wide
range of Canadian and U.S. ports located
throughout the Great Lakes. In 2004
for instance, over 2,600 commercial
transits were recorded, transporting
over 30 million tons of cargo.
Environmental Technical Work Group
How do you rank the importance of the environment?
- The Study ranks the importance
of the environment equally with other
What is going to be the arbitration method
for ranking and placing priority on the
- Our integrated ecological response
model has been incorporated into the
Shared Vision Model. The Study Board
has a guideline that identifies the
need for any recommendations to respect
the ecological integrity of the Lake
and River ecosystem.
How do we bring environmental protection
and natural systems to the forefront?
- Environmental interests and concerns
are being evaluated as a key part
of the Study. Plan 1958-D did not
take the environment into consideration.
Why didn't the Environmental Technical
Work Group investigate the environment
in the upper section of the St. Lawrence
- The upper section of the St. Lawrence
was studied and is included in the
more detailed analysis, although the
area has been grouped together for
some purposes with Lake Ontario. Three
PIs have been identified for this
section of the river (northern pike,
Virginia rail and muskrats), and the
metrics by which they are evaluated
were determined to be similar to the
metrics in other parts of the Study
What are the impacts of water levels on
- Plant diversity and abundance
depend on the frequency with which
a particular wetland area is either
drowned or left dry. Periodic high
and low water levels are generally
good for wetlands. There is also a
secondary impact, in terms of faunal
species that inhabit wetlands. For
example, our investigations indicate
that wetland sustainability is greatly
affected by the abundance of muskrat
in the wetland. If we can develop
recommendations that will result in
water levels that increase the muskrat
population, we will be able to help
What is the linkage between water levels,
their impact on the environment, and groundwater?
- This issue has been considered,
but the relation to ground water and
lake levels is minimal. Based on an
examination of data on the water supply
and outflows, it has been determined
that ground water probably plays a
minor role in the overall water balance.
Are any of your studies related to a cleaner
- We only look at the environmental
issues that have a relation to water
levels. While water pollution is a
major issue, it is not addressed in
this Study because it is not affected
by water levels.
Why have you not converted environmental
indicators to economic values?
- It is very difficult to put a
dollar figure on an environmental
indicator since dollars cannot replace,
say, a lost species. The Environmental
TWG has used an Integrated Ecological
Response Model to determine the impact
of levels on environmental factors.
Hydroelectric Power Technical Work
Can large variations caused by peaking
and ponding near the dam be reduced or
- Peaking and ponding is an operational
aspect of any plan option. The Study
is not investigating this aspect of
Could the power companies not install more
hydro generators allowing greater outflow
as alternatives to holding water back?
- There are no plans to modify the
existing control structures, and that
is not within the scope of the Study.
Hydrologic and Hydraulic Technical
What are you doing about forecasting? If
we know levels are going to be high, why
can't we lower the water in anticipation?
Why can't water just be let out the St.
Lawrence River when there are problems
with high supplies?
- The current regulation plan doesn't
have any forecasting components. Now
we have developed forecasting technology,
and our new recommendations will include
the use of a forecasting component.
But the accuracy of forecasting future
conditions is imperfect and risks
of releasing or storing water will
continue to be carefully considered
in balancing the needs of all interests.
Water cannot be let out of the Lake
when there are high supplies without
considering the impacts to the River.
In some months we have a lot of rain. Holdback
caused higher levels and made things worse.
Why do we hold water back?
- When large volumes of rain fall,
any plan will do its best to release
some of that rain. Under most plans,
some water is held back in case the
opposite happens and supplies reduce
substantially. It's usually easier
to let water go than to hold back
water you don't have. The various
interests have different views on
higher water: riparians don't like
it in some months, recreational boaters
like it in some months. Any plan will
try to reduce the extremes for all
affected interests and achieve a compromise
between conflicting interests in a
very complex system.
This year we have had a very mild summer
with a lot of rain. In August the St.
Lawrence dropped over eight inches. Why?
- Seasonal decline in the fall is
normal. Levels peak in June and decline
in the fall. The decline has begun
through diminishing supplies and evaporation.
Although July 2004 experienced record
rainfall, we are now on the natural
curve. With a lot of rain in July
more water was released to return
to average levels as much as possible,
but the increase in flows was not
noticed due to high supplies. Although
levels were down by eight inches,
the average is usually more than that.
No operational changes will occur
until the new plans are in place.
Where and how are water levels measured?
- There are six major gauges around
the Lake. At each location, a shallow
well is built near the shore with
a pipe connected underwater to the
Lake. The level of water in the well
is the same level as the Lake. The
levels of the six gauges located at
Oswego, Kingston, Port Weller, Cobourg,
Rochester, and Toronto are then averaged.
There are also a number of gauges
along both shores of the River.
What is the long-term forecast for levels
- We cannot say with certainty what
the levels will be in the long-term.
To address this uncertainty, the Study
has considered a very large sample
of cases based on historic, randomly
generated as well as climate change
How does climate change affect long-term
- The Study is considering four
possible cases - some of which result
in higher levels, others result in
lower levels - reflecting the uncertainty
regarding climate change.
How much can you raise or lower the Lake,
in practical terms? With control structures
in place how much does man alter the four-foot
range? Do we control the entire four-foot
range or only the extremes?
- The natural range from the highest
high to the lowest low on Lake Ontario
was over seven feet prior to regulation.
Regulation has reduced the range to
closer to six feet with a target range
of four feet, which the plan and the
Board achieves most of the time.
Can the four-foot window be smaller?
- A smaller range may be possible,
but it may not provide the best overall
results for all interests.
Please explain how having the dam has lowered
- The River was dredged to provide
a channel for ships as part of the
power dam project. Other changes also
increased the volume that the River
could hold. Releases can, therefore,
result in more water leaving the Lake
than would have without the dredging.
The Moses-Saunders power dam controls
the outflows from Lake Ontario, so
depending on supplies, outflows can
be increased to lower levels.
Why are Lake levels so much higher than,
say, in 1972 when there was so much more
beachfront and better clearance for boating?
- Lake levels vary every year, and
in any year levels may or may not
be higher than in 1972. Beachfronts
and boating clearances change as a
result of the levels occurring at
the time. The last thirty years have,
in fact, seen fairly high levels with
much higher supply into Lake Ontario
than before. Variation from year to
year will always occur.
What is the difference between the 100-year
average and the average over the past
40 years? The constant reference to the
100-year average is confusing and doesn't
give the answer that should be given.
Shouldn't we be looking at the 40-year
- These long-term levels are natural
changes and may happen. The 100-year
average is the most reliable record
of historic conditions. The 40-year
average, often referred to, relates
to the period during which the current
control structures have been in place.
Both periods are important.
Information Management TWG
When will the public be able to see the
information gathered by the Study on the
- We expect to have information
available on the site in 2005, prior
to the summer public meetings.
Where is the data and where are the results?
The public wants to review the information.
- Each Technical Work Group is compiling
its information and reports, and this
will be available in 2005 on the Study
website at www.losl.org.
I could not locate water level information
on the web. How can I access that information?
- Information on water levels and
flows is available. A list of sites
is available on the Study website
Are your presentations and other documents
made available on the website?
- Wherever possible, they are. If
there is a specific document that
you need or would like to see, you
can e-mail or call the communication
representative in your country and
they will provide the information
if it is available.
Plan Formulation and Evaluation
Can a new plan address issues of reliability
and predictability? Can water levels be
- The Plan Formulation and Evaluation
Group is looking at reliability and
predictability as it considers plan
Under the new plan could the Control Board
make more frequent decisions and somehow
achieve greater accuracy in their forecasts
- The recommended plan may include
more frequent outflow changes than
the present weekly decisions. However,
making decisions in response to short-term
events may have long-term consequences
that we are unaware of.
How have you factored politics into the
regulation plan options presented to the
- We are not factoring politics
into regulation decisions. The Study
is focusing on meeting the needs of
all interests as best we can and adhering
to our guidelines and mandate from
the International Joint Commission.
Is monitoring the rainfall in the upper
lakes included in a portion of the Shared
- The Shared Vision Model is a tool
used to evaluate regulation plan options
by modeling the various aspects of
the system in a way that is agreed
upon by the Study Team. The selected
option may include a forecast procedure
that would be based on future supplies,
such as rainfall, on the upper lakes.
Recreational Boating TWG
Can the levels be held higher for a longer
period of time during boating season?
- There is a gradual natural decrease
in levels following the peak. The
current plan stops that a little,
but natural processes dictate. In
many cases, the decline happens too
rapidly and causes problems. A new
plan could modify this decline in
levels. The Study is trying to come
up with something that will be an
improvement over the existing plan.
September 1st seems to be the magic date
for a dramatic drop each year. Since power
stations east of Cornwall do not have
the capacity to hold water back, water
is released down the system. Why can't
surplus water be let out slower over a
longer period of time? This would benefit
recreational interests and should not
provide any negative impact. Is an easy
drop of the system possible?
- Levels follow a natural cycle.
During the spring more comes in. The
peak is normally seen during late
June, and then the supply goes down
during the summer and fall months.
Even without the dam the Lake would
follow seasonal highs and lows with
the lowest point in December. One
problem with holding back the water
is where to keep it. At the shoreline
of Lake St. Frances, flooding would
be a real problem. Lake St. Frances
is not as big as Lake Ontario so fluctuation
of water levels is much more restricted,
the fluctuations can be dramatic and
the effects on residents more significant
as a result. We try to stabilize levels
there because there is no place to
store the water. A more gradual drop
of lake levels will be modeled and
the results will be presented at the
summer public meetings.
Can more be done to meet the short-term
needs of boaters to get out of the water
at the end of the season?
- The plan formulators are looking
at options that can slow the decline
of water levels after the levels peak
in the summer.
If a marina is poorly placed, why is that
- We've included marinas and recreational
boating as one of the interests and
an area for study. We could ask the
same thing about other economic interests
such as shoreline owners who locate
in floodplains or build too close
to eroding shoreline, or municipal
water intakes that are too shallow.
Where possible, planners have tried
to provide plans with some improvement
to all interests, but poorly placed
facilities still always face the risk
of either very high or very low supplies
and no plan will entirely avoid those
problems. The marinas are there and
the impact of water levels on those
marinas is real so we have taken them
into account in our economic models.
How are you weighing the various stakeholder
interests with respects to the environment,
coastal repair and shipping and recreation?
At the time that the Seaway was built,
they used about a quarter of the area
of Lake St. Louis as a dumping ground
for rock. So that has made a quarter of
the area of Lake St. Louis useless for
recreational boating. Can anything be
done about that?
- We are weighing all interests
equally. The Study is not considering
structural changes to the Lake or
St. Lawrence River, such as dredging
Lake St. Louis.
International Joint Commission
Will the IJC be performing an independent
evaluation of how the plan will be run
and who will run it? Will there be some
type of independent evaluation of how
this will be managed?
- The Study Board is completely
independent of the I.J.C. We will
put together recommendations that
may include examining the Control
Board. The IJC will determine, independently,
how the Control Board will be run,
how that would be expressed in new
orders of approval and how they implement
Is anyone monitoring water releases? Is
there something showing the balance of
accounts between what happens now and
what would have happened without the Project?
We need to achieve balance.
- The Board of Control keeps a record
of what water is let out and what
would have been let out before the
plan. Pre-project plans that emulate
the natural responses of the system
without the dam are used as a baseline
and considered with other plans. One
of the concerns about pre-project
plans is that there were a great deal
more extreme highs and lows causing
more flooding and erosion among other
undesirable outcomes, so most of the
time we consider modified pre-project
Will we have long-term management of a
plan for all areas?
- There are weekly changes made
under the current regulation plan.
The Control Board can deviate in extreme
situations. We may recommend more
How will the new plan be managed?
- That is still to be determined.
What is the IJC's response to the Edmonds
- The International Joint Commission
has not responded to the Edmonds Report
since it was a report to the Study
Why can't the Treaty be redone?
- It's not within the scope of this
Study to consider changes to the Treaty.
Why have levels been kept so high? We want
our beaches back.
- If levels are high, it is a result
of high supplies into the Lake or
limits on outflows due to high water
downstream as well. In the past 50
years, supplies have generally been
high. However, the water levels are
lower under the current regulation
plan than they would be without the
Relationships between the International
Joint Commission and the public reflect
apathy and mistrust, what is the IJC going
to do to rebuild a trusting relationship
with the public?
- The International Joint Commission
has been involved with the Study Board,
with TWGs, and with Plan Formulation
among other things. Members from the
IJC have attended the public meeting
series to hear input first hand. There
will be further consultations with
the public once the Study makes its
recommendations to the IJC.
I am fearful there is no written or legal
mandate to implement regulations. What
is the obligation to achieving required
- The Boundary Waters Treaty empowers
the IJC to make regulations and to
require that they be adhered to. The
various hydro authorities that control
the dam must be licensed and seek
approval from the International Joint
Commission under the treaty and regulations.