Lake Ontario levels continue steady decline

Lake Ontario

Niagara Gazette – As the record-high water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River continue to trickle out into the North Atlantic, outflows from the lake have again been reduced.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board reduced the rate of outflow at the Moses-Saunders Power Dam at midnight Saturday morning from 350,000 cubic feet per second to 348,000 cfs.

On Aug. 8, the board reduced outflows from 367,272 cfs to 349,968 cfs, citing hazards posed to boaters and commercial shipping in the St. Lawrence River.

Previously, the board had maintained an outflow rate of 367,272 cfs — among the highest outflows in the history of the St. Lawrence Seaway — for nearly two months, an action board spokespersons called unprecedented.

High outflow rates of course help speed the decline of Lake Ontario, which hit all time high water levels this year, peaking in late May at about 3 feet above long-term average levels.

Since then, the lake has dropped nearly 18 inches, according to the board.

Meanwhile, the future is looking brighter than the last few months for shoreline landowners.

In its weekly update Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projected lake levels will drop by 10 inches Sept. 18. The lake remains 22 inches above its August long-term averages, according to the U.S. ACE.

An International Joint Commission spokesman said previously those estimates are only accurate for a few days out, and can be highly influenced by fluctuations in precipitation.

But if weather remains dry in the coming months, he said, the lake could be back to its average levels by years end.

“The board will continue to prescribe the most aggressive outflows with the goal of reducing Lake Ontario as quickly and safely as possible,” stated the board.