© Stevie Adams

More officials back plan to change Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River water levels

By Scott Waldman

November 16, 2015

ALBANY — The bipartisan group of state elected officials who support a plan to change controls of the water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is growing.

Plan 2014 was unveiled 18 months ago by the International Joint Commission, an American and Canadian entity that controls the water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Supporters say it will lead to an increase of 100,000 more megawatt hours of hydropower resources, new opportunities for hunting, angling, and wildlife viewing and extension of the recreational fall boating season on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands region.

Water levels are controlled by a series of dams on the river.

Proponents of the plan say the current control of the water levels has devastated coastal wetlands because it is tightly controlled on too narrow a range of highs and lows. Opponents say Plan 2014 will devastate coastal communities and destroy property values.

A coalition that supports the plan released a list of supporters, including Representatives Paul Tonko of Amsterdam and Elise Stefanik of the North Country.

“Plan 2014 will bolster our economy while providing lasting environmental benefits for generations to come,” said Tonko, a Democrat, in a statement. “As our climate continues to change, the need becomes more immediate to adjust the way we use and manage our environmental resources. This plan ensures that future generations will be able to count on increased output of clean, sustainable hydropower for the regional community.”

The federal government will ultimately make the final decision on water levels, but there is no timeline.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declined to weigh in on the issue thus far.

“Our environment is our life blood in upstate New York and Plan 2014 will protect our North Country ecological treasures,” said Stefanik, a Republican. “Plan 2014 is a win for our environment and for our economy and should be approved without delay.”

Municipalities on both the American and Canadian sides of the river have come out in favor of the plan.

The list of elected New York officials now includes Rep. Nita Lowey of Westchester, state Senators Patty Richie and Joe Griffo, Assemblywoman Addie Russell and Rochester mayor Lovely Warren.