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Orleans, Niagara will fight lake-level plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Callard fears significant economic hit to southshore

Photo by Tom Rivers – Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard said leaders from Orleans and neighboring Niagara counties will try to thwart a lake-level plan that threatens property and businesses on the southshore.

ALBION – County government leaders in Orleans and Niagara counties will try to convince federal officials not to pass a plan for Lake Ontario water levels that could harm southshore property and businesses.

“The damage could cost billions of dollars,” Orleans County Legislature Chairman David Callard said about the lake level plan. “I cannot for the life of me understand why they would take this chance.”

The binational International Joint Commission last week recommended approval of the new plan for regulating Lake Ontario water levels and St. Lawrence River flows. “Plan 2014” now awaits approval from the U.S. and Canadian federal governments.

Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is scheduled to lead a press conference next Wednesday at Point Breeze to speak out against the plan. Callard fears the plan, which allows higher lake levels, will lead to more erosion on the south shore.

The plan allows more fluctuations in the water levels, with the chance for lower levels that could jeopardize marinas and run boats aground.

Collins will speak against the lake plan next week. The following week some of the county legislators from the two counties will go to Washington, D.C. to meet with federal officials, urging them to reject the IJC plan.

“We pray for your success,” Callard told Legislator Lynne Johnson of Orleans and Legislator David Godfrey of Niagara.

The IJC’s new water level plan would be its biggest change in two generations. The commission has sought public comments the past 14 years. The proposed plan would more closely follow a natural fluctuation pattern with spring water levels generally higher and the draining of water in the fall more gradual.

Southshore residents strongly opposed the plan in hearings in recent years, and Callard said that opposition delayed the plan’s implementation.

“Despite proclaiming to want their input, the IJC is ignoring the needs of vocal residents and communities on Lake Ontario’s southern shore whose property will be hurt by this plan,” State Sen. George Maziarz said in a statement. “The extreme variations in water levels that may occur with Plan 2014 could have severe long-term ramifications. Where will the IJC be when these property owners need help with erosion mitigation and land restoration? Plan 2014 gives short shrift to the very real and very negative consequences of its implementation and offers no help in these areas. Homeowners and municipalities who are already struggling to get by will be left to fend for themselves.”

Maziarz also is urging the federal government to reject the IJC plan.

“The IJC’s position shows no concern for the economic fate of our state’s people and places,” Maziarz said. “We need a new balance in protecting our freshwater resources and protecting our real property, but this plan is severely lacking and should be rejected by our federal government.”