LONG SAULT – Lake St. Lawrence has been low this summer as authorities try to bring high water levels down on Lake Ontario by flowing water faster out through the Cornwall dam.
The localized impact on the artificial lake — also known as the St. Lawrence River between Iroquois and Cornwall — is such a source of concern to recreational users, the Township of South Stormont plans a public meeting Sept. 11 to discuss the issue.
Cliff Steinburg, lead organizer of the 7 p.m. event at South Stormont Community Hall, says he hasn’t been able to enjoy his dock or boat at his Ault Island home this summer. “There’s only about a foot of water at the end of my dock,” says the Ault Island Community Association director.
He points out that low water on Lake St. Lawrence increases the risk of boaters hitting stumps and old foundations lying just below the surface — remnants of the lost villages inundated by the Seaway project in 1958. “We’ve had to rescue tourists after their boats have run into objects,” Steinburg adds. In one case, the involved party inflicted several thousand dollars damage to a new craft purchased only a couple of weeks earlier.
Steinburg argues the International Joint Commission — the binational body that sets water-flow policy on the Great Lakes — is “overreacting” to high water levels on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, a remaining hangover from the wet year of 2017. He wants the IJC to come up with a compromise to permit somewhat higher water levels on Lake St. Lawrence even when Lake Ontario is high — especially if current circumstances persist into next summer.
“For every inch they try and lower Lake Ontario, it lowers the water level on Lake St Lawrence by approximately 20 inches,” he wrote in a letter promoting the upcoming event.
He says the affected portion of the local St. Lawrence River on the front of South Stormont and South Dundas is now so low, it’s hit the bare minimum to support even commercial shipping — something not seen since at least 1998.
Intended to let policy makers hear the voices of concerned residents, the Sept. 11 session at 2 Mille Roches Rd. should also serve as a great educational opportunity for the general public about the intricacies of the Seaway system, according to Steinburg. Representatives from the IJC, the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, the Municipality of South Dundas and the Township of South Stormont are all expected to attend.