© Matthew Levine

The Challenge

The water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are regulated by the Moses Sanders Dam under a joint U.S. – Canada agreement that dates back more than 50 years. That plan was developed before modern science gave us a full understanding of the lake’s fragile ecosystem. Now we know that the old system of management is slowly killing the lake and river.

A Modern Plan for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River:

The International Joint Commission (IJC) – a joint U.S.-Canadian agency – has spent more than a decade developing Plan 2014, which achieves a balance of benefits for all interests, by simply restoring some of the natural fluctuations in water levels.

By adjusting the dam’s operating plan to work with nature, while preventing extreme high and low water levels, Plan 2014 will restore 64,000 acres of wetlands, boost hydropower production and increase the resilience of hundreds of miles of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada.

What’s at Stake?

Maintaining the status quo leaves coastal areas more vulnerable to powerful storms (like Sandy and Irene) and threatens a variety of industries and one of New York’s most valuable natural resources. These industries rely on a healthy lake, clean water and accessible shipping routes. Among the specific problems the current lake regulation plan has created:

  • Natural protection from severe storms has dramatically reduced
  • Meadow marsh ecosystems have reduced by more than 50%
  • Northern Pike populations have declined 70%
  • Black Tern populations have declined by 80%
  • Muskrat habitat has nearly disappeared

The Benefits of Plan 2014, By the Numbers

  • $5.3 million: Value of annual increase in clean, renewable hydro-electric production. Through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s ReCharge program, a portion of this additional power will be used to create jobs and control energy bills for upstate New Yorkers.
  • $9.1 million: Annual increase to New York’s economy through hunting, angling and wildlife viewing from improved wetlands in the Lake Ontario watershed.
  • $25.2 million: Average annual savings for homeowners along the lake through the prevention of coastal erosion and flooding compared with no water-level regulation.
  • $0: The cost to restore 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands, and hundreds of miles of lake and river shorelines in New York’s Lake Ontario watershed. A cost-benefit analysis by the Brookings Institution shows a 2-1 return for the economy on every $1 spent on restoration of the Great Lakes region.

About Us

SupportPlan2014.org is a website owned by The Nature Conservancy and created in partnership with several non-profit conservation and environmental organizations: Audubon New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Save The River and Ducks Unlimited Inc. The organizations in this coalition are independent of each other and are not a legal entity. They are working together to achieve sustainable shoreline management, climate change resilience and ongoing economic benefit while restoring the health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.