Perspective on Plan 2014 from the Water’s Edge: Q and A with Senator Bob Runciman

After 10 years of scientific research, public consultation, and outreach the International Joint Commission has created Plan 2014 – a new management plan for Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River.  It is a balanced approach that aims to restore a long degraded environment while accounting for the needs of boaters, property owners, the shipping industry and other users. 
To understand how the plan will impact local communities we have asked Senator Bob Runciman, who lives in Brockville and represents the Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes in the Senate of Canada, to share his thoughts on this jewel of a region. 

Bob Runciman 2013 headshot
© Senator Bob Runciman

Senator, you have been a long time supporter of a modern approach to managing water levels in the region.  What is your favourite place in, on or around Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, and why is it your favourite?
My favourite place  is our summer home between Brown’s Bay and Mallorytown Landing. It’s the widest part of the river and from our deck, there are magnificent vistas up and down the river with views of Singer Castle, Chimney Island, the Admiralty Group of islands, and many others.
My parents had a cottage for close to 40 years just a little east of our current location so this site is in my blood, and in my kids and grandkids as well.
Why is the future health of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence so important to the people and communities of the Thousand Islands and the broader region?
Bottom line, for many of them, is that they depend on a healthy river for their livelihood. This is one of the world’s great rivers and, in my view, the Thousand Islands is the most beautiful part of it. The local economy depends on the tourists, the divers, the fishermen who come here. But I think it goes deeper than that. Even for those who aren’t directly dependent on the river for their economic survival, the river is a way of life. It is in their hearts, and they care deeply that it be protected for future generations.
Waves and lighthouse, Lake Ontario, Canada
Wind whips waves around an old lighthouse on Lake Ontario, Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Canada
© Frank PARHIZGAR / WWF-Canada

The environmental benefits of the International Joint Commission’s new approach to managing water levels and flows are well documented. What will Plan 2014 mean for the people, communities and businesses that depend on the river and lake?
I am hopeful that it will result in a longer boating season. Right now, the drastic draw-downs in water levels in August each year mean that we lose close to a third of the season. September and October will never be as busy as July and August, but with a more sensible approach to regulating water levels, I can see the season being extended a month or more beyond what we get now. In recent years, water levels have been so low in the fall that many boaters couldn’t even reach their own docks.
What can people do to help ensure this modern approach moves from plan to reality?
For one thing, go to the IJC website and register your opinion. They are accepting comments until the end of August. Make sure you make your views known. And don’t be afraid of letting your political representatives know how vitally important it is to get this implemented. We’ve spent millions of dollars and wasted years in studying and re-studying this matter. The time has come to act.
WWF has set up a tool to easily submit your comment to the IJC today. Click here to learn more.