New plan will help restore St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario ecosystems: officials
Will improve fish and wildlife habitats, no impact on commercial navigation
Officials in Canada and the U.S. have signed a new plan to regulate water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that they say will help restore coastal ecosystems.
The agreement, called Plan 2014, will set the flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam, which is on the St. Lawrence between Cornwall, Ont., and Massena, N.Y.
It takes effect in January and replaces an earlier water regulation system established in the 1950s.
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The International Joint Commission, which signed the plan Thursday, says the previous model unnaturally altered water levels, causing harm to the surrounding 26,000 hectares of coastal wetlands.
The commission says Plan 2014 will allow for more natural variations in water levels and help improve habitat for fish and wildlife, while still protecting against extreme high water levels that flood facilities and extreme low water levels that impact water intakes.
It says fish and wildlife have suffered because the diverse plant life has been overrun by a monoculture of cattail thickets.
Commercial navigation not affected
The change will also increase energy production at the Ontario Power Generation, New York Power Authority and Hydro Quebec power plants by about 0.2 per cent of their current hydropower, the commission says.
Meanwhile, there would be no impact on commercial navigation, it says, and costs due to coastal damage would increase slightly to about $20 million from roughly $18 million under the previous plan.
Those costs include investments to maintain shore protection structures.
"Plan 2014 will continue to protect the people who live and work on these waters by reducing the severity and duration of extreme high and low water levels," said Gordon Walker, the commission's Canadian chair.
The plan caps off a 16-year process involving studies, public engagement and government review.
The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share.