IJC Announces Action Plan to Review Regulation of Water Levels and Flows in Lake Ontario-Saint Lawrence River System


The International Joint Commission (IJC) today released a directive that creates a Study Team and directs it to develop a detailed Plan of Studies for reviewing the operation of the structures controlling the flows and levels of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system.

In 1996, the IJC's International St. Lawrence River Board of Control developed a Scope of Work identifying the studies needed to determine whether changes to the IJC's Orders of Approval were warranted, including adding criteria to address recreational boating and the environment. Studies identified in the Scope of Work were never funded by the Governments of the United States and Canada.

The new effort will start the process of reviewing how water levels and flows are regulated by defining the studies described in the Scope of Work in greater detail; recommending the agencies and organizations capable of carrying out each study; identifying the sources or means of obtaining needed information; and estimating the time, dollar and personnel resource requirements for each study.

A total of 6 members, three members from each country, will be serving in their personal and professional capacity on the Study Team. They have already been designated by the IJC.

The IJC is continuing to pursue support and funding for comprehensive studies of regulation of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system to more fully consider:


  • environmental factors, which were poorly understood when the current Orders of Approval were issued in the 1950s;
  • recreational boating and related interests that have developed in the region;
  • the combined effect of St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River flows during the Ottawa freshet;
  • the actual range of water supplies received since the Orders of Approval were issued: and
  • the effects of climate change and climate variability.

While no additional funding will be required to prepare the Plan of Studies, the Commission is relying on the services of personnel from appropriate departments to carry out this work. Once the Plan of Studies has been developed, significant funding will be required to carry out the studies. The IJC requests that governments provide the needed funding for the timely execution of the studies.

The International Joint Commission was created under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help prevent and resolve disputes over the use of waters along the Canada-United States boundary. Its responsibilities include approving certain projects that would change the natural levels and flows of boundary waters, such as the international hydropower project at Massena, New York and Cornwall, Ontario. If it approves the project, the Commission's Orders of Approval may require that the flows through the project meet certain conditions to protect the interests in both countries. For more information, please consult the Commission's Web site at www.ijc.org.


Fabien Lengellé Ottawa ON 613.995.0088 Frank Bevacqua Washington, DC 202.736.9024