Boating in Canada Archive

Inland Water Levels 2000

Water Levels - Good News or Bad News, It depends where you sail.

By Philip Mason, Ottawa, Ontario

The precipitation in the Great Lakes basin has been below average for a number of years, it was only 82% of average in January. If you have been out on any of the Lakes, the St. Laurence or the Ottawa rivers this last season you will have noticed the effects. All those rocks and other obstructions are getting closer to your keels and in some cases even protruding above the surface. For those who use Lake Ontario and the Seaway down to Montreal this problem has been exacerbated by the demands of south shore lake front property owners and the seemingly favourable responses of the St Laurence River Board of Control to lower the water levels significantly below their long term averages.

The BAD NEWS is that is you sail Georgian Bay, Lake Huron or Lake Erie, be prepared for significantly low water levels. In February Lake Huron was 46 cms below long term average, thafs 12 cms below chart datum, Lake St Clair was 31 cms below long term average and Lake Erie 20 cms. These below average conditions are expected to remain for at least six months. Coast Guard have indicated that special aids to navigation will be installed on a temporary basis to make the emerging dangers and to avoid existing aids toppling over. Listen to the continuous marine broadcasts for local details.

The GOOD NEWS is that a determined effort will be made this year to get Lake Ontario back up to its long term average level. This has been helped by its receipt of 102% of its expected January precipitation. It is currently only 12 cms below average level, and under a plan promulgated by its Ad Hoc advisory committee, it and the Lakes down to Montreal should be filled up by the end of the Spring Freshette. The idea is to use the increased spring flow down the Ottawa to satisfy the needs of Montreal Harbour, whilst progessively damming back the water between Montreal and Iroquois to fill up the system. Then using the Iroquois facility to control the Lake Ontario level. Sounds good, let's hope the St. Laurence River Board of Control continues to agree. They do acknowledge that problems associated with the 1999 low water levels included reduced hydropower generation, reduced depths for commercial navigation, thus reduce cargo loads, unusable recreational boating docks and ramps, reduced channel drafts on all lakes and rivers for all boaters. and additional costs related to water withdrawal by some
domestic and industrial users.

That Ad Hoc conunittee has representation from CPS, Ontario Marina Operators, Ducks Unliniited, and intends to hold at least one open meeting this summer, somewhere along the Seaway. Your participation and input is invited. More details will be provided as soon as they are available. Also both the US and Canadian members of the Control Board are looking for support and $15M CAD each to conduct a further Control Regulation study. This should be a further opportunity to provide informed input and data relating to needs, usage and long term objectives for the Seaway and Lake Ontario. Again everyone will be invited to participate and further details will be provided when available.