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The Iroquois Dam helps control water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Photo courtesy New York Power Authority
The Iroquois Dam helps control water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. Photo courtesy New York Power Authority

IJC prepares for hearings on "modified" water levels plan

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A binational agency is poised to take another step towards revising the way water levels are managed on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario.

The International Joint Commission says it "aims" to hold public hearings on changing the 55-year-old system as early as next month.

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Last year, the International Joint Commission released a proposed formula for managing water levels, dubbed BV7. It was praised by environmentalists for restoring some of the natural ebbs and flows of the river and lake that plants and wildlife need to thrive.

But a public hearing was never held. IJC spokesman Frank Bevaqua says the agency’s commissioners will meet next week and their goal is to announce public hearings on a “somewhat modified” version of BV7 in July.

"The details will be released next week, but the goals are the same. We intend to address the needs of all the interests in the basin, upstream and downstream."

The big sticking point with BV7 was concern among homeowners on the southern shore of Lake Ontario that the new water levels plan would cause more damage and erosion. Bevaqua says the tweaked version of BV7 is better.

"Improving the environmental conditions in response to the harm that’s been done by the current regulation plan. But also the modified proposal performs better for the coastal interests on Lake Ontario as well."

The IJC started this whole process more than a decade and 20 million dollars ago. If public hearings happen this summer, the U.S., Canada, New York, Ontario, and Quebec will all have to sign off before a new water levels plan can become final. The current plan is from 1958.

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