Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River water levels again a concern

CLAYTON, N.Y. (WWTI) — New York has sandbags at the ready as Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River water levels rapidly increased in the first week of May.

This caused water levels to increase at a rate of approximately half an inch per day, according to the International Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Board.

Tony David, who is a U.S. Section Member of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said the increase was due to weather patterns.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the rate at which the precipitation is coming into the system,” David said. “And this was coupled with a very abrupt snowmelt within the very large Ottawa River basin.

As of May 4, Lake Ontario waters had increased to 247 feet, which concerned New York State officials as flooding is possible in the lower lake levels when Ontario hits 248 feet.

Governor Kathy Hochul confirmed on May 9 that State agencies are monitoring these levels and have flood resources available.

However, many communities along the Lake and St. Lawrence River are still recovering from the historic flooding of 2017 and 2019 that put houses and businesses underwater.

This included French Creek Marina in Clayton.

“Flooding was substantial throughout the whole season,” French Creek Marina General Manager Heinz Wahl shared. “There was a good 18 inches of water in the store and we just couldn’t operate in there.”

All of the Marina’s docking had permanent damage, which resulted in the removal of most fixed docking. French Creek was also dredged through a State-led Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project.

In total 6,800 cubic yards of material had been dredged from the creek since the 2019 flood. French Creek has also replaced all damaged docks with floating docks.

Despite these efforts, water has already crept up in French Creek this year.

“I’m concerned,” Wahl expressed. “The water is quite high. Normally during this time of year, in the spring, we don’t see water levels quite this high.”

And although officials have not labeled this an active flooding situation, communities are still urged to stay prepared because the weather could change it all.

“We really can’t rely on the luck of the weather,” David explained. “We need to have our plans, we need to be adaptive. It’s looking like we’re not going to have severe flooding this year. But there’s nothing to say it couldn’t happen in the future.”

For real-time water level updates, visit the International Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River website.

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