Belleville’s mayor has asked city staff to report on flood preparations for a 2020 flood season which could see Lake Ontario’s level rise beyond the record set this year.
“We need to take a hard look at what preparations we have to make for 2020,” Mitch Panciuk told council.
“I am very concerned,”he said, explaining he has read reports from scientists and other mayors predicting the lake’s 2020 level could be 15 cm to 30 cm (one foot) above that of this summer.
“Without overstating it, it’s going to be catastrophic for some communities,” he later told reporters.
Panciuk said another 30 cm of water would submerge South Front Street’s Victoria Park.
“Another foot of water puts tremendous strain on our resources, some of our facilities, etc.
He acknowledged properties in Belleville in 2019 sustained relatively little flood damage but it’s prudent to be ready should the level rise further.
“Where does it stop? What about 2021?” Panciuk added Wednesday.
“We built up the wall at the wastewater treatment facility last year, but what we did last year we do not believe will sustain another foot of water.”
The mayor said regulation of the lake’s level must change.
“What makes me so angry about this is this is fully a man-made issue and it has to do with the management of the International Joint Commission,” Panciuk said.
Council had earlier called upon the commission to abandon its current management plan, known as Plan 2014, in favour of a 1958 model.
The commission in 2016 established the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to ensure the outflow of water from the lake matches Plan 2014.
That board reported in August Lake Ontario’s level remained at a record high despite declining about 29 cm since June 13, when outflows were increased, the board reported in an August news release.
But the release added Lake Erie’s level was also at a record high, sending water into Lake Ontario at a record rate.
Lake Ontario had begun dropping by about one centimetre per day starting Aug. 2. The latest rate wasn’t immediately available Monday evening.
“The board is acutely aware and concerned for the welfare of the many affected shoreline property and business owners, as well as the shoreline environmental damage and other impacts of the continuing high water levels,” the release continued.
It noted the current regulation of the lake’s level deviated from Plan 2014 “with the specific intention of maximizing the rate of relief that lower water levels will provide to those affected.”
Panciuk asked city chief administrative officer Rod Bovay to lead a discussion during the city’s next capital budget talks to determine the city’s need for flood response.
In the meantime, those affected by Lake Ontario’s levels may fill out the commission’s online survey at tinyurl.com/ijc19.