Brendan Keany

Officials Concerned About Rising Lake Ontario Levels

"At this point, everybody's predicting a little bit higher than last year."

April 22, 2019 - 11:17 pm

BARKER (WBEN) - Niagara and Orleans County emergency officials held a press conference Monday afternoon to prepare Lake Ontario shoreline residents about rising water levels.

"It's almost a daily, ongoing event," said Orleans County Director of Emergency Services Dale Banker. "We check water levels seven days a week."

And in the last seven days or so, the height has risen substantially.

However, if there were to be a flooding issue this season, like there was in 2017, officials want to be proactive in their response, according to Jonathan Schultz, the director of emergency services for Niagara County.

"Some things we've been concerned with over the past few days and weeks is looking at the actual rising water levels that we're seeing in the lake," said Schultz. "We can see over the past week especially a dramatic rise in water levels over the past 7-10 days due to the fact that they have been cutting back on the water being released from the lake, due to outflow of the Ottawa River on the other side of the dam."

While Schultz reiterated that there's not immediate need for concern, he noted that residents should be cognizant that levels are expected to rise this year, and they want to be prepared for the worst.

"At this point, everybody's predicting a little bit higher than last year, but we've been seeing some significant rains, like we have this past weekend, and other things going on with the lake," he said. "So, of course we're keeping our eye on it all the time - day and night."

One thing that Schultz says emergency services learned from the 2017 debacle was about the role that wind can play in flooding.

"If you talk to the National Weather Service and the Army Corps. of Engineers, they're predicting maybe 5-6 inches higher than last year, which keeps us well below flooding, but then again, you have to look at the weather patterns," he added. "Those north, northeast winds could create a lot of issues even with those levels."

The two said that if necessary, they could have state assistance on the shoreline within 24 hours if there were to be an emergency.

"We have been working with our partners locally, the county and the state level to start moving resources, probably within the next few weeks if we have to, if we hit those trigger points and the waters rise, to protect residents from flooding," said Schultz. "I do know my office has been fielding quite a few questions and concerns from our residents all along the lakeshore and the lower river because they're seeing the water levels going up, and they're remembering from 2017 the flooding that happened."

Listen to the entire press conference below:

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