A well-attended meeting in the Brigantine Room at Harbourfront Centre on March 3, 2920 explored the problem of high lake levels.
Will Lake Ontario flood this year as it did in 2017 and 2019? No one knows for sure, but the water is unusually high already so there may be more flooding this spring.
The meeting was arranged by a committee of Islanders and members of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association (YQNA) which represents central waterfront residents.
Speakers described the effect of recent flooding on their communities. Islanders spent a lot of time filling sandbags last spring, to save their homes. Many tries have died on the Island. The city-side waterfront was also affected; 55 Queens Quay West, a waterfront condo building, for example, spent over $200,000 renting pumps and fixing water damage. Its insurance costs jumped 70%.
Mike French, an engineer living on Toronto Island, presented graphs showing why he expects more flooding this spring.
Sarah Delicate, of United Shoreline Ontario, a volunteer group concerned about flood damage, described how high water levels affected people living on the shoreline in smaller communities east of Toronto. Most of these people are not wealthy, yet flooding caused on average over a hundred thousand dollars of damage per household in damage. Many affected people are elderly, they cannot easily fill and carry sandbags. They often do not have or cannot afford insurance. They have received no compensation from any government.
Ms Delicate argues the higher lake levels are due to mistaken policy decisions by the International Joint Commission (IJC), which released too little water out of the Moses-Sanders Dam in Cornwall, Ontario in 2017 and 2019 because it favoured the interests of the shipping industry and downriver communities in Quebec over Ontario home owners. She encouraged people to answer her organization’s on-line survey,
We are United Shoreline Ontario. We are a grassroots community-based organization with the mandate of uniting the residents and municipalities of the north shore of Lake Ontario in one voice.
Adam Vaughan, Member of Parliament for Spadina Fort York, described the complexity of the problem. He points out that other areas are more affected than Toronto. For example, the Ottawa River rose dramatically last spring, which in turn raised the level of the St Lawrence River causing damage around Montreal.
As a general rule of thumb, a rise of an inch in the level of Lake Ontario causes the St. Lawrence River to rise 11 inches.
The run-off into the lake is now harder to moderate due to more paving and urbanization. Rivers and creeks now flood more quickly than before, and less water is absorbed by the ground.
The Federal government has made funds available to improve and enhance the shoreline and improve ecological balance. It hopes to set up a bird sanctuary on the Island and to make major investment there to improve the ecology of the Island and its resilience to high water levels.
The Canadian appointees to the IJC are expert scientists. In some cases they are native Canadians; it is important to take into account traditional practices as well as science when controlling the water levels of Lake Ontario.
Joe Cressy, Toronto City Councillor, Ward 20, spoke about the various measures being taken, both in the short term and long term, to deal with higher lake levels and Climate Change. He introduced several city or Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) officials who are in charge of these efforts.
The City and the federal government have invested $29.592 million towards this critical work through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, with the City contributing more than $17.9 million. The money will be used to increase the resilience of the the shoreline and Island, in anticipation of high water levels going forward. For example, the roads on the Island will be raised in places in the near future so that the roads are less likely to become impassable this n the event of high water levels.