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Rep. Owens backs IJC’s water regulation proposal

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The water regulation strategy for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River must be updated to prevent “irreparable damage” to the region’s ecosystem, according to Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

In a letter Wednesday to Lana Pollack, U.S. co-chairwoman of the International Joint Commission, Mr. Owens voiced his support for IJC’s “Plan 2014” water management proposal — praising it as a “pragmatic, comprehensive strategy that reasonably balances environmental and economic concerns.”

“Shoreline property owners, mariners and hydroelectric energy producers have a significant financial stake in this decision. And it is clear inaction will create further, possibly irreparable, damage to our environment,” he said in the letter.

The IJC — a bilateral agency that advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on issues affecting the two nations’ shared waters — is seeking public feedback on the proposed plan that promises environmental restoration and significant economic benefits for hydropower production.

While the current plan — 1958-DD — aims to keep water levels relatively stable within a 4-foot range, Plan 2014 would bring back more natural water fluctuation patterns.

But this greater seasonal variability in water levels also means there would be a higher risk of flooding and erosion, which is why coastal property owners along the lake’s south and eastern shores are adamantly opposing the proposed changes.

Northern lake and St. Lawrence River communities, on the other hand, have largely embraced Plan 2014 as it finally recognizes environmental and recreational boating interests, which have been neglected for decades under the current plan.

“The community deserves tremendous credit for its engagement in the development of Plan 2014. The public comment period has demonstrated that New Yorkers and Canadians living along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River truly understand this issue and continue to live up to their reputation as passionate stewards of the environment,” Mr. Owens said.

IJC held several public hearings last month in lake and river communities, including in Alexandria Bay, and will be accepting written comments until Aug. 30.

The commission plans to make its final recommendation to the U.S. and Canadian governments this fall.

“As this process continues, I am confident stakeholders and policymakers at the federal, state and local levels will work together to address additional challenges as they arise,” Mr. Owens said.

To learn more about Plan 2014 or to submit a comment online, visit: http://ijc.org/en_/losl.

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