Officials consider reducing Lake Ontario outflows to assist with fall boat hauls

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ST. LAWRENCE RIVER, N.Y. (WWTI) — Many recreational boaters who navigate the St. Lawrence River are preparing to haul their boats as the summer season is coming to an end. However, officials are also assessing conditions in the event local marina’s need assistance.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board announced in a press release that it is continuing to assess water level conditions on the St. Lawrence River for potential boat haul out assistance. According to the Board in recent years, high and low water level conditions have made it challenging for recreational boaters to remove their vessels from the water.

To assist boaters in the past, the Board has temporarily reduced outflows from Lake Ontario to increase water levels on the St. Lawrence River. The Board stated that these efforts have allowed marinas and shoreline dock owners a window to remove recreational boats more easily. There are approximately 700 marina and boat club slips, along with hundreds of private docks along the St. Lawrence.

Recently, the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board met on August 27 to assess conditions, weather forecast and discuss possibilities for assisting with boat haul out on the St. Lawrence River. The Board confirmed that several uncertainties still exist that could impact water levels in the upcoming two weeks.

This includes long-term weather forecasts, upstream and downstream inflows and basin inflow. Currently, the United States drought monitor maps show abnormally dry to moderate conditions within the St. Lawrence River basin. The Army Corps of Engineers has also predicted water levels on Lake Ontario to drop four inches by September 27.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board has constantly been making changes to outflows throughout the summer of 2021. The board first decreased outflows on Lake Ontario in April when spring water levels were first presented as low, and again decreased outflows in June. The board ended outflow deviations in mid-July.

“Although current forecasts indicate below average water levels will persist in the St. Lawrence River basin through fall, it is important to recognize the Board stopped deviations from Plan 2014 and returned to regulation plan flows on July 17,” International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board United States Co-Chair Steve Durrett said in a press release.

This return to regulation plan flows resulted in an increase in Lake Ontario outflows. Additionally, since the return to regulation plan, the region has experienced higher rates of precipitation which have caused Lake Ontario water levels to increase closer to long-term averages. Water levels on the St. Lawrence River have also aligned closer to levels recorded in 2020.

Until more information is presented, the Board announced it will continue to monitor weather forecasts and water supply and reevaluate during the week of September 6 to re-assess water level conditions within the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system. The board will then specifically decide if it will reduce outflows on Lake Ontario.

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