LAKESHORE COUNTIES UNITE
AGAINST PLAN TO ALTER LAKE LEVELS
NIAGARA, ORLEANS SAY SHORELINE PROPERTIES IN PERIL
ALBION—Niagara and Orleans counties will jointly oppose efforts
to raise Lake Ontario water levels by as much as 12 inches,
Niagara County Legislature Deputy Majority Leader Dave Godfrey,
R-Wilson, announced following a meeting with his Orleans County
counterparts earlier this week.
Godfrey is also hoping local residents will make their voices
heard at a
public hearing scheduled for June 5 in
The proposal was drafted by the International Joint Commission,
the body that was established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty
between the U.S. and Canada. The plan, called BV7 by
international planners, would raise and lower water levels in
Lake Ontario by anywhere from 9 to 12 inches to “restore greater
balance to the region’s regulation of water levels” to “help
restore the region’s wetlands” according to the IJC's website.
The plan would also drastically alter water levels for the first
time since the 1950s.
And that has caused alarm for residents along the Lake Ontario
shore, Godfrey said, prompting delegates to the Niagara-Orleans
Regional Alliance (NORA) to draft a measure to be passed by both
county legislatures opposing the BV7 plan.
“This changes our water levels to higher highs and lower lows,”
Godfrey said. “This means much more erosion and lake-bank
damage. And also, it’s going to affect our harbor
drastically—especially in the fishing season when we have lower
waters, our boats won’t even be able to get out into the lake.”
TO BROADCAST MEDIA: Audio file is of Niagara County
Legislature Deputy Majority Leader Dave Godfrey discussing local
opposition to international plans to radically alter Lake
Ontario's water levels.
The plan also fails to make realistic projections about storm
surges, Godfrey noted, adding that higher water levels coupled
with storm surges posed a serious problem for the Lower Niagara
River and Eighteenmile Creek.
The IJC website forecasts a 3-inch rise
and an 8-inch drop “90 percent of the time” with the BV7 plan—while
excluding information about the other 10 percent of the time.
“Every feeder stream is going to feel those higher highs and
lower lows,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey warned of a substantial economic impact on the fishing
and boating industry that is so critical to port communities
like Wilson, Olcott, and Point Breeze in the town of Carlton.
“The real concern is the loss of property, the decline of
property values, and a potential loss of more than $30 million
in sportfishing and sailing revenues that come into Niagara and
Orleans counties,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey, who along with Legislature Vice Chairman Clyde L.
Burmaster, R-Ransomville, and Legislator John Syracuse,
R-Newfane, represents Niagara County’s lakeshore communities,
said he expects the Legislature to pass the NORA resolution
easily at Tuesday’s meeting. The NORA measure calls on the IJC
to reject BV7 and to conduct an economic-impact study as part of
any future plans.
TO EDITORS: NORA's resolution opposing the BV7 plan is
attached in PDF format.
“We want to be good stewards of the environment, but this
measure is destructive to our communities’ futures,” Godfrey
stated. “The current plan has been in place for 50 years, and
people have built retention walls and dockage based on the
current levels, and the drastic change they’re proposing will
have a major, major economic impact on virtually the entire
southern shore of Lake Ontario.”
Godfrey noted that Legislature Chairman William L. Ross,
C-Wheatfield, and Legislator Mike Hill, R-Middleport, had both
been active in drafting the resolution’s language, but said the
major driving force in galvanizing local opposition has been
Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, whom he credited with helping
to inform local residents on the issue.
“In hopes that we can avert this proposed plan, Sen. Maziarz was
on the forefront of this as far back as February, meeting with
the IJC, helping to notify our lakeshore property owners and
yacht clubs to get the word out,” Godfrey said. Godfrey noted
that the IJC had agreed to hold local hearings on the proposed
plan due primarily to those efforts.
Godfrey said he and other local leaders hope local residents
will come out in force at the IJC’s June 5 “public information”
meeting, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Olcott Fire
Co., 1691 Lockport-Olcott Road (N.Y. Route 78), Olcott.
“It’s already been identified that the three counties of
Niagara, Orleans, and Monroe are the ones that are going to be
hardest hit by this change,” Godfrey said. “They have some of
the best natural harbors on the south shore of Lake Ontario.
We’d like to keep it that way.”