© Stevie Adams

Plan to control upstate water levels gains support

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ALBANY—A coalition of upstate municipalities wants better management of the water level of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to prevent further erosion of the shoreline.

The so-called Plan 2014 also promises to 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, according to the groups behind the plan. It would allow for higher and lower water levels than currently planned.

Plan 2014 is supported by a coalition of environmental groups including Audubon New York, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Save The River and Ducks Unlimited Inc. The Nature Conservancy announced this week that it is spending a $250,000 ad campaign to promote the plan.

“I believe Plan 2014 will help protect our natural resources throughout our region while addressing the concerns of communities throughout the shoreline,” Congresswoman-elect Elise Stefanik said in a statement. “Plan 2014 is a reasonable, balanced solution to the issues confronting the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River basin. I stand ready to work with you to achieve these goals.”

For the last five decades, the water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have been regulated by the Robert H. Moses-Saunders Power Dam in Massena and Cornwall under a joint agreement between the United States and Canada. The new plan, which was developed by the International Joint Commission, would raise water levels in Lake Ontario by two inches. That would help rebuild wetlands, reestablish fish population and increase the amount of water flowing through hydropower dams.

The plan must be approved by the Canadian and American governments. The group has bipartisan support from legislators in the region, as well as detractors.

U.S. Rep. Chris Collins of Western New York has said the plan will harm homeowners along the water because it will erode their property. He has called the plan a concession to downstate interests and environmental groups.