water safety

January 29, 2020

Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority (CRCA) has extended the Water
Safety Statement (in effect since December 5, 2019) for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River today due to persistently higher than average water levels.

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSLRB), which manages Lake Ontario outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall and calculates water level forecasts, is reporting a lake-wide water level of 75.08 metres as of January 22, about 0.5 metres above average for this time of year.

Lake Ontario’s level continues to rise. Water supplies to Lake Ontario remain high due to recent precipitation events, that have made January one of the rainiest on record, and due to inflows from the other Great Lakes upstream, many of which have recently seen or are currently experiencing record levels.

The ILOSLRB reports that:
“Outflows from Lake Ontario through the Moses-Saunders Dam will continue to be maximized where possible, however flow reductions are necessary during periods of ice formation to facilitate a safe and stable ice cover. This is important to reduce the risk of ice jam flooding and permits increasing flow rates again as soon as ice conditions allow. It is likely that Lake Ontario will continue its seasonal rise as we head further into winter”.

Information about current conditions and water level forecasts are available directly from the ILOSLRB at the following links:
Current conditions - https://www.ijc.org/en/loslrb/watershed/current-conditions
Water level forecasts - https://www.ijc.org/en/loslrb/watershed/forecasts

Residents in flood prone and low-lying areas should continue to pay attention to wind and wave forecasts for approaching storms with high winds from the southeast, south and southwest, as these are the conditions when the probability of localized impacts (e.g. flooding & erosions) is increased.

“While there is considerable uncertainty longer-term, with continuing high inflows from Lake Erie, this will ensure water levels on Lake Ontario remain near seasonal highs for at least the next several weeks”, the Board reports. If very wet conditions materialize, the ILOSLRB water level forecasts suggests that the high levels of 2017 or 2019 are a possibility this coming spring.

What this means in simple terms is that high water levels are expected to persist this year, leading to increased risk of localized shoreline flooding and erosion, especially during periods of strong winds and waves. No different from previous years, water levels this year will largely depend on weather conditions.

With higher than normal water levels, CRCA staff foresee a higher risk of ice damage along Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines through the winter months.

The CRCA is urging residents to take care along shorelines. Following recent weather events, unsafe/unstable banks have been reported due to recent erosion. Recent high water and wave action has deposited debris along shorelines and beaches.

If you witness flooding and require assistance, your first point of contact is the local municipality. CRCA does not provide sandbags. However, information about where to purchase sandbags is provided at www.crca.ca/flood. Residents are reminded that it is the property owner’s responsibility to properly dispose of sandbags and sand, which is considered hazardous waste, and any other debris that may have been deposited along the shoreline.

Any work along shorelines (e.g. placement of fill, armour stone, etc.) will require a permit from the CRCA. Call our office or visit our website www.crca.ca for further information.

CRCA appreciates feedback from the public and municipal staff detailing flooding and erosion impacts. Please report observations on the online form at www.crca.ca/flood.

Staff will continue to monitor ILOSLRB water level forecasts, Surface Water Monitoring Centre Provincial Statements, and local water levels, and update CRCA messaging as needed. This Watershed Conditions Statement will remain in effect until (or updated before) 11:59 PM March 25, 2020.

For further information on water levels, wind and wave forecasts, and Provincial flood messages visit www.crca.ca/flood.

For information directly from the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board visit:

  • Main website - www.ijc.org/en/loslrb
  • November News Release – Lake Ontario Outflows - https://ijc.org/en/loslrb/flexibility-setting-lake-ontario-outflows-continue
  • 2019 High Water – Questions and Answers” document - https://ijc.org/en/loslrb/watershed/2019-high-water_Q-and-As?_ga=2.59416749.1003897217.1580152522-1773466344.1530810484

See below for watershed conditions terminology:

Normal: No flood conditions exist

Watershed Conditions Statement – Water Safety: High flows, unsafe banks, melting ice or other factors that could be dangerous for recreational users such as anglers, canoeists, hikers, children, pets, etc. Flooding is not expected.

Watershed Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook: Early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high wind or other conditions that could lead to high runoff, cause ice jams, lakeshore flooding or erosion.

Flood Watch: Flooding is possible in specific watercourse or municipalities. Municipalities, emergency services and individual landowners in flood-prone areas should prepare.

Flood Warning: Flooding is imminent or already occurring in specific watercourses or municipalities. Municipalities and individuals should take action to deal with flood conditions. This may include road closures and evacuations.