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Belleville mayor blames IJC regulatory changes for Lake Ontario flooding

Appointing two mayors to the board that manages water levels for lakes and rivers on the U.S.-Canadian border is an “important” step, Belleville’s mayor says.

“They need to understand what the impact is on municipalities,” Mitch Panciuk said after the International Joint Commission’s announcement.

The IJC and its board are made up of Canadian and U.S. representatives and regulates water flow on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

Panciuk is one of a growing list of mayors frustrated with the IJC’s new water management brought into effect in 2016.

Base water levels in Lake Ontario are at a higher level now than under the old system, Panciuk says, adding the regulatory change is to blame for this year’s flooding.

“When you add precipitation to an already heightened level of the lake, you’re going to have these instances. So that was a mistake.”

The flooding this year and in 2017 has been costly to Belleville, says Panciuk.

“It’s cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars and it’s cost other communities millions to deal with this flooding.”

Belleville’s city council passed a resolution calling for the IJC to revert to it’s old water management system.

“There will be a review of some sort, but we’re unclear of the scope and can’t say for certain there will be any changes,” IJC spokesperson Paul Allen told Global Kingston.

Meanwhile, Panciuk says he and other mayors will continue to push for those changes.

“If we added up what the cost was to municipalities and homeowners, it’s in the billions of dollars.”

The International Joint Commission is also seeking funding from the Canadian and U.S. governments for a proposed advisory group.

The group would have two public members and would provide knowledge on the impacts of high water levels on local citizens and governments.

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