Lake Ontario levels are the result of global warming, not Plan 2014

Posted 29 January 2018 at 4:40 pm


Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own science or facts. In spite of this axiom, there is a chorus in Orleans County that continually spew their own misinformation, or in this political climate, alternative facts. I am specifically talking about the “abnormally high” water levels recorded on Lake Ontario during 2017.

The misinformed chorus, which includes the newly-minted chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, would have us all believe that the reason for the rise in the lake level is former President Barack H. Obama’s Plan 2014, which was created by the International Joint Commission.

Make no mistake, the IJC’s Plan 2014 will allow for lower lake levels in the long term than the previous water level management plan, which came into effect in 1958. Don’t take my word for it, take the words of two SUNY College at Brockport Science Professors – James M. Haynes, PhD, and Douglas Wilcox, PhD – who together have over a century of research and study of the Great Lakes under their belts.

The St. Lawrence River Board, Dr. Haynes, and Dr. Wilcox categorically reject and refute the ignorant nonsense that YouTube scientists and conspiracy-theory peddlers proclaim. The informed conclusion? The high lake levels observed on Lake Ontario during 2017 are a direct result of global warming and climate change, not the IJC/Plan 2014.

In August 2017, Dr. Wilcox explained to a small group of south shore residents that the previous lake level management plan kept water levels artificially high, while Plan 2014 allows for more variation in water levels. You heard that right, Plan 2014 actually allows for a more reactive posture in the face of dangerously high lake levels, than the previous plan did.

Furthermore, Dr. Wilcox and Dr. Haynes explained, Lake Ontario is a drain lake, and as such, it bears the brunt of increased water inflows. The science is quite simple – imagine five beakers partially filled with water suspended at different elevations. Lake Ontario is the “bottom,” or lowest elevation, beaker, which means that as the other four beakers fill with water and eventually overflow, they naturally flow into the fifth beaker. What makes matters worse is that there is little-to-no control over the inflows from the other four beakers thanks to Niagara Falls. Accordingly, Lake Ontario receives all of the runoff and inflow from rivers and tributaries flowing directly into it (think the Genesee River), plus all of the inflow from Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie, and their respective rivers and tributaries. Due to gravity, water will always travel to the lowest natural point.

Last year was an unusually wet winter and spring across the regions, whose runoff feeds into the Great Lakes waterway system. Therefore, as late snows melted (remember the mid-March snow storm?) combined with unrelenting rainfall, the water levels on Lake Ontario rose. Last year did break the record for highest lake levels in recorded history, but this is not because of the IJC/Plan 2014; rather, the high lake levels are a direct result of climate change and global warming.

Does the chairwoman and her cadre not understand that the reason why more water cannot just be let out of the Moses-Saunders Dam is because that would present a serious flooding hazard for the City of Montreal and its over 4 million residents?

From a humanitarian standpoint, your front yard is not as important as 4 million Canadians. Perhaps the reason why this “blame Obama” mantra has predominated the discussion is because people are averse to science? Or maybe it is a lack of empathy for foreign nationals, or a general aversion to former President Obama, personally?

Andrew Remley