Today the International Joint Commission (IJC) released Plan BV7, a regulation plan with a new approach to managing water levels on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The proposed plan is similar to Plan B+, an option supported by community members.
Plan BV7, if appropriately implemented, will begin to reverse damage caused by 60 years of destructive regulation, and allow the River and Lake ecosystem to once again thrive. This new plan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore our coastal ecosystems and improve the health of our River and Lake, which are so important to our local economies.
Over the next few months, we will be providing you with regular updates on the process and opportunities to help advocate for Plan BV7. But first, we want to provide you with some important information on Plan BV7’s approach which will create the conditions for:
A healthier lake and river, as evidenced by the following:
- Increased populations of Northern Pike, Black Tern and other marsh-nesting birds. Northern pike, the top predator in coastal marshes, have declined by 70 percent since regulation began. Populations of the Black Tern have declined by over 80 percent, and are now on the list of threatened species in New York and designated as Species of Special Concern in Ontario.
- A 40 percent increase in wet meadow habitats which are vital to native fish and wildlife. Since regulation began this entire class of coastal wetlands has declined by over 50 percent and been replaced by dense stands of cattails.
- Return of a cornerstone mammal. The muskrat is an essential habitat engineer whose year-round grazing on cattails creates openings on which other animals and plants depend. Muskrats have almost disappeared from Lake Ontario coastal marshes since regulation began, and their beneficial effects will nearly quadruple under Plan BV7.
- Significant economic investment. The economy of the Great Lakes depends on the health and beauty of the lakes and their ecosystems. A 2007 cost-benefit analysis by the Brookings Institution demonstrates that each dollar of restoration brings two dollars of benefits to the economy of the Great Lakes region.
- Improved conditions for recreational boating and commercial shipping. For approximately 85 years out of 100, Plan BV7 will extend the season for recreational boating by avoiding the rapid draw-down of the Lake and upper River as under the current plan. Plan BV7 would also improve conditions for commercial navigation in the River by reducing shipping delays.
- Additional recreational opportunities. Healthier Lake and River wetlands will support stronger populations of native fish and wildlife, improving the area’s hunting and angling, and strengthening the recreational economies that rely upon them.
- Less flooding and more hydropower. Plan BV7 would slightly decrease the risk of flooding in the lower River while enhancing hydropower production in Canada and U.S.
- Protection from flooding. Plan BV7 will ensure water levels are managed in ways that will not increase risk of flooding to shoreline property.
- Continued assistance for property owners. Plan BV7 is estimated to save property owners on the lake and upper river $24 million dollars a year by reducing the cost of maintaining shoreline properties when compared to no regulation. This may be 11% lower than the current subsidy offered to shore-line property owners, but it is still a significant subsidy.
- Rebuilt shorelines. Restoration of low water to Lake Ontario will help rebuild shoreline property. In some areas, once sandy beaches have been replaced with rocks and cobbles, a result of the current plan’s absence of naturally occurring low water conditions.
You can find:
• The IJC’s materials here: http://www.ijc.org/loslr/en/index.php
• Our press release here: http://savetheriver.us/?p=2437
Get Involved & Learn More
2012 is going to be a very busy year. We expect the IJC will hold public information sessions on Plan BV7 in the coming months and public hearings this summer. (We will update this page with more information on those sessions as information is released by the IJC.)