Planning a new way forward in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River

As I discussed before our 2009 report Canada’s Rivers at Risk identified the St. Lawrence as one of Canada’s most threatened rivers.  Our report called for restoration of environmental flows in the river as central to improving the overall health of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system and looked to the International Joint Commission (IJC) and their Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River study for solutions.  This week, the IJC proposed a solution that we believe brings us a big step closer to seeing a healthier river.

The IJC’s newly proposed plan for regulating water flows in the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario is called Plan BV7.  At WWF, we are heartened by the sound science, the years of study and consultation that has gone into developing this plan Over 10 years the IJC involved over 180 stakeholder representatives, experts, and scientists from government agencies, academia, NGO’s and industry in New York, Ontario, and Quebec.  Hundreds more attended public hearings and provided written comments.
Plan BV7 respects the principle of restoring more natural flows and levels to the river and the lake as a basis for restoring ecosystem health. This is in essence what managing for environmental flow is all about. The plan also builds in potential for improvements over time through adaptive management.  Even with the best available science we still can’t forecast the future.  An adaptive management strategy allows the IJC to monitor and assess conditions on the lake and river in order to refine the plan as needed.  A new governance structure broadening the responsibilities of the current management board would be established to review monitoring data, and evaluate the performance of the regulation plan and also ensure there is a process to change the regulation plan as the environment around us changes.
WWF will remain fully engaged in the process of moving this proposed plan to action over the coming year. We would love to see others get involved too!  The IJC has outlined an extensive public consultation process here and you can always stop by our blog where we will continue to share what we know, when we know it!