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Two counties protest plan for Lake Ontario water levels

ALBION – Too much water can be a devastating thing, according to officials in both Orleans and Niagara counties.

At Wednesday’s Orleans County Legislature meeting, Niagara County Chairman William Ross and Legislator David Godfrey joined with Orleans County Chairman David Callard and Legislator Lynne Johnson as they discussed NORA’s position on the latest news from the International Joint Commission (IJC).

NORA – Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance – is opposed to the IJC Plan 2014, which deals with raising and lowering water levels in Lake Ontario.

“We raised a ruckus last year with the initial plan, and it was sent back for revision,” said Johnson, R-Lyndonville. “NORA testified at every IJC hearing, but this latest plan has only minor revisions and there is nothing in it that helps the lakeshore from Niagara to Webster.”

IJC Plan 2014 was passed last week. The committee that created the plan is split between American and Canadians. According to the IJC website, the plan “is designed to provide for more natural variations of water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that are needed to restore ecosystem health.” Under the plan, the IJC extreme high and low water levels will still be moderated, the boating season will be frequently extended, and hydropower production will slightly increase.

However, according to the NORA representatives, their concerns fell on deaf ears.

“NORA took the position that this is government at its worst,” said Johnson of the plan’s passage. “The IJC didn’t listen to the people. There were over 5,000 letters in opposition to this ... and it will be a disaster to New York’s Lake Ontario border.”

Callard, R-Medina, added, “Here’s a commission that’s not following due process ... and that’s a serious thing.”

The problem with the IJC plan, Callard continued, is in the impact water levels will have on the lakeshore. He said that levels too low will result in mudflats far into the lake, while levels too high will flood nearby properties. The result, he said, will be lower property values, a drain on the entire county.

“We will all bear the cost,” he said.

Because of the strong opposition from NORA, Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, will meet with NORA representatives at the lighthouse in Point Breeze at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in a show of support against the IJC plan. Johnson said his office is also coordinating a trip to Washington the following week when NORA representatives plan to lodge a protest.

“(We) want to look at the person signing off on this and tell them how devastating this will be to Niagara and Orleans counties,” Johnson said.

“There will be millions of dollars in devastation, and there will be tax increase in both counties,” she added.