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Public Process

Listening to all the interests

At each step of the process, the IJC is working to include a diverse set of viewpoints and consider all stakeholders.

The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River basin is home to nearly 12 million people, diverse ecosystems, and many billions of dollars in economic activity. Any sound approach to regulating water flows and levels must be balanced amongst these many interests, but this is no easy task.

Different groups along the lake and river experience unique benefits and challenges when water levels are at different stages. Some groups, such as shoreline property owners, may reap more benefits when water levels are slightly lower. Other groups, such as recreational boaters, commercial shippers and electric utilities, may reap more benefits when water levels are slightly higher.

In addition, some groups may prefer to see water levels remain relatively constant while other interests, such as the system's environment, require greater variation in water levels to remain strong and vibrant.

On top of all that, various communities along the lake, the upper river and the lower river have different and sometimes conflicting interests.

One of the IJC's core responsibilities is to ensure that all affected interests -- including those along the lake, upper river and lower river -- are considered in decisions that affect the natural levels and flows of boundary waters. So while developing a new proposed approach to water levels and flows, the IJC has worked to ensure that there is a thorough and inclusive process that considers all of the region's diverse interests.


A long-term study with significant public involvement

The proposed new approach to water regulation is based on the comprehensive five-year scientific Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Study led by experts from both Canada and the United States.

The study filled in critical information gaps about the impact the current regulation plan is having on the basin's communities and its ecosystem. It also directly involved a wide range of stakeholders in developing three alternative regulations plans for consideration by the IJC.

Stakeholders participated throughout the study organization and helped build a shared vision model. Alternative plans were refined after being tested at public meetings throughout the basin.

The IJC proposed implementing a modified version of one of these plans, and held extensive public hearings to gain feedback from the community. After hearing significant concerns about the proposal, the IJC withdrew that plan. At that point, the IJC invited basin governments to participate in a Working Group process to consider other alternatives.

Seeking input from basin governments that represent the region's communities and interests

The LOSLR Working Group is an ad hoc advisory panel that works with the IJC and technical experts from agencies in Canada and the United States. The Working Group includes members from the governments of Canada, the United States, New York, Ontario and Quebec, as well as IJC staff. In considering a new approach over the past two years, the Working Group has considered the findings of the LOSLR Study as well as the comments from stakeholders throughout the basin.

Public meetings and hearings before any decision is made

Before any approach is finalized, there will be significant opportunities for public review and input. The IJC will hold public information sessions in late spring of 2012 that will allow for open dialogue, and ample opportunities for questions from the public about the proposed new approach. Comments received by June 15, 2012 will be considered in developing a proposal that will include a revised order of approval, regulation plan, adaptive management plan and a governance structure. The IJC will then hold formal public hearings on the proposal before arriving at a decision.

Improvements to Governance

Under the proposed approach, the existing International St. Lawrence River Board of Control -- which oversees and implements the Order of Approval -- would be reconstituted as the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board. The functions of the new Board will be similar to the existing Board, but its responsibilities, structure, membership, supporting committees and funding will be modified to fit with the new approach. The Board will continue to conduct public outreach events to hear from people around the basin, and better understand the impacts of their decisions. In addition, a new reporting structure would be established to review monitoring data, evaluate the performance of the regulation plan and advise the Board under the adaptive management strategy.

  • Background

Learn more about the history of regulating water levels and flows on Lake Ontario

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  • Voice Your Comments

Let us know your opinions and concerns about water levels and flows into the LOSLR system.

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  • Upcoming Events

Stay informed about the latest meetings and developments.

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