We Need Rain

A LOT of rain. At this point, it’s the only thing that’ll raise the water. It can’t be just local rainfall; it must include the whole of the Seaway system. I guess we wait.

Larry and I toured the Saunders Dam Visitor Centre in Cornwall yesterday, a fascinating display of the construction of the dam and hydroelectric station there as well as the flooding of the St. Lawrence River in 1959 to create Lake St. Lawrence as a headpond for the plant. Morrisburg is at the centre of that headpond.

Today the gates of the Hydroelectric Plant remain completely open. After all, it’s a critical power source for much of Ontario as well as the northern USA, and relies on flow through its gates regardless of how water levels affect the headpond which feeds it. It was never designed to look after the shore or boating needs of residents in the area other than with minor (no more than 1 inch/2 cm) deviations up or down.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) controls those levels by controlling the flow through the dams in Cornwall and Iroquois, which also has all of its gates wide open, using a detailed regulation plan (Plan 2014) based upon Lake Ontario levels from both the current and the previous year. Despite record low levels this year, last year’s levels were still above the longterm average. The IJC states that lower levels yet can be tolerated.

Needless to say, local resident opinions vary from distraught to furious to accepting. Levels are now 1-2 feet (half a metre) below the longterm average and owners are unable to launch boats from their own docks. When in the water they are much closer to submerged items. The large ships are affected as well – there are now only specific areas where it is safe for them to pass each other, and low waters mean less cargo to raise them for safe navigation.

Interestingly, on the Labour Day weekend (when we had our final Dive and BBQ event), water levels temporarily dropped as much as a full foot (30 cm) in some areas, attributed to sustained, and relatively unusual, north-east winds – that’s certainly new information for me! The water returned to the previous level when the winds changed.

On the up side, getting in the water at our place has become a lot easier. We aren’t used to seeing the river bottom pebbles and the scattered boulders as we enter! However, we have to get well into the weeds at this time of year before we can submerge.

Along with everyone who lives alongside Lake St. Lawrence and points upstream, as well as those who visit to dive here, we are watching. There is nothing else that we can do.