High Water Levels Threaten Waterfront

                                                                                                                    Photo: braziliandanny/imgur

There’s too much water in the Great Lakes—and with Lake Ontario being the lowest in elevation, it receives so much from the others that it has flooded coastlines and developments. It is challenging to restrict the flow of water from rivers, rain and spring run-off, but Lake Ontario levels have been successfully regulated in the past by the Moses-Saunders dam at Cornwall.

The Toronto Islands and numerous downtown buildings in Toronto have suffered millions of dollars in damage from flooding, especially in 2017 and 2019. Experts are concerned that unprecedented water levels are part of climate change and not a seasonal or passing problem. If so, more attention and new solutions are needed urgently, because an additional foot of water in the spring could top the already high levels at our doorstep. To learn more, YQNA put flooding first on the agenda in the November 19, 2019 meeting.

If lake levels can be controlled, who is in charge? Canada and America negotiated the Boundary Waters Treaty act in 1909, and the International Joint Commission (IJC) was established with three representatives from each country looking after this precious freshwater resource. In 1956, the IJC approved building of the Moses-Saunders Dam and the St. Lawrence Seaway, and release of water through the dam regulated water levels successfully for decades. Later, lobbying from various interest groups led to a new IJC plan for regulating water levels. It was implemented in 2017, and maximum levels gradually rose to a record high of 75.92 m, four feet above the average lake level.

From the detailed information that YQNA has gathered, it seems that IJC urgently needs to get ahead of next year’s forecast. YQNA has appealed for action from IJC and other parties with an active role and has informed major parties who would suffer financial losses in case of widespread flooding. Join the action by forwarding our letter to Councillor Joe Cressy (councillor_cressy@toronto.ca) and Mayor John Tory (mayor_tory@toronto.ca) and others on our list of recipients.