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Schumer, in meeting with Canadian officials, urges increased water flows from Lake Ontario

Posted 9 December 2019 at 10:24 am

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer’s Office

In a personal meeting with Consul General of Canada, Phyllis Yaffe, and her successor, Deputy Consul General Khawar Nasim, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer recently expressed his concerns over Lake Ontario’s above-average water levels for this time of the year and urged the officials to do everything possible to mitigate the risk of a repeat of last year’s historic flooding.

Specifically, Schumer called for the officials to advocate for enhanced shipping safety maneuvers and concomitant increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam to both the Canadian Seaway and to the Canadian commissioners of the International Joint Commission (IJC).

Schumer argued that while the outflows are already significant, there is further room to increase them when done in conjunction with enhanced shipping safety measures. Schumer said this would continue safe shipping along the Seaway and help ensure that both residents of Upstate New York and Canada have their sky-high risk of future flooding mitigated. Last month, Schumer also urged the St. Lawrence Seaway and American commissioners of the IJC to support increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.

“During our meeting, I told Consul General Yaffe and Deputy Consul General Nasim that we need to do more—now—to mitigate flooding risks in the spring, especially increasing outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam in conjunction with enhanced shipping safety maneuvers,” Schumer said. “After experiencing record flooding in two of the last three years and already seeing sky-high water levels this season, there is an urgent need to act now to prevent the worst.”

With Lake Ontario’s water level currently 19 inches higher than the average for this time of the year and a repeat of last year’s historic flooding looking likely, Schumer called for the immediate institution of all the enhanced security protocols to enable increased dam outflows.

“That’s why I called on our Canadian partners to support the further increase of outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam and to express that support to the Canadian Seaway and Canadian Commissioners of the IJC, as I have done on the American side,” Schumer said. “With the risk of a repeat of these immense damages looming, we must take every sensible measure possible to protect communities along Lake Ontario.”

Schumer explained that last summer, in the midst of flooding season, when the Moses-Saunders Dam outflows were increased to 200 cubic meters per second (m3/s) above the normal safe navigation flow limit (L), the Saint Lawrence Seaway accommodated the increased outflows by employing additional operational and navigation safety precautions such as speed controls in sections of the Seaway, a prohibition on meeting or passing vessels in certain areas, positioning a tug boat at some locks to assist vessels if needed, and reduced speeds to minimize vessel wakes.

Schumer explained that while outflows now remain at L+200 m3/s, not all of these same enhanced precautions are still being employed, indicating that outflows could be safely increased now above L+200 m3/s if these measures are reinstated. Schumer added that in order for outflows to be further increased, the measure must be supported by the Canadian Commissioners of the IJC and the Canadian Seaway.

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