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Trump nominates Corwin to head Great Lakes agency

Jane Corwin of Clarence, a former state Assembly member, was nominated by President Trump Tuesday to chair the International Joint Commission, the binational agency governing Great Lakes issues.

Corwin said she intends to seek a review of Plan 2014, the Lake Ontario water management plan that many local officials and residents blame for last year's flooding and heavy erosion along the lakeshore, which Trump declared a federal disaster area in November.

Parts of the Niagara County shoreline were in the Assembly district Corwin represented from 2009 to 2016.

"I believe the thought process was to have somebody from this area be on the commission who was familiar with Plan 2014, because that was such a big issue. That's how I ended up in this place," Corwin said.

Corwin is a friend and political ally of Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and Corwin credited Collins for suggesting her nomination to Trump.

"He did put forth my name to the president. It was a while ago, I couldn't say exactly when, but it was definitely a factor in that," Corwin said.

Collins, whose spokeswoman declined comment, had said several times in 2017 and 2018 that he wanted Trump to make a clean sweep on the U.S. side of the IJC, whose members are equally divided between the U.S. and Canada.

Corwin and Trump's other nominees, Robert C. Sisson of Michigan and Lance V. Yohe of North Dakota, will require Senate confirmation, beginning with hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corwin said no date for the hearings has been scheduled.

"There is room for us to go back and review the methodology behind Plan 2014," Corwin said. "I know in the analysis part of the recommendation they did take into consideration extreme weather events. Actually, what ended up happening was more extreme than what ended up in the study."

Although the agency has blamed heavy rains in early 2017 for the floods, some locals have said they are convinced that the IJC and the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, an IJC subsidiary that controls lake outflows, could have avoided or minimized the trouble through more timely action in early 2017.

This year, a Buffalo News analysis showed, the board tinkered with the outflow rates much more often than it did last year, and there has been little if any flooding locally.

With Lake Ontario level rising, communities brace for flooding

Corwin said it would be part of her job as chairwoman "to make sure the commission responds effectively. I think the last two years have been a tremendous learning experience for the commission, and certainly going forward, take those lessons and apply them to make sure harmful impacts are not put on the people in the U.S. or on the Canadian side."

State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, whose district includes the Lake Ontario shoreline in Niagara and Orleans counties, hailed the Corwin nomination.

"As a leader who once served the same communities that were devastated by the flooding of Lake Ontario, she will ensure the interests of those impacted by the disaster are represented and that their voices are heard," Ortt said. "I look forward to Jane Corwin adding on to her brilliant public service record and fighting the wrongs that the IJC and its Plan 2014 have created.”

Trump's nominees would replace Lana Pollack of Michigan, the current chairwoman, and Rich Moy of Montana. Pollack has been on the IJC since 2010 and Moy since 2011. The third seat was vacant when Trump took office.

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