This year Lake Ontario is high and rising, and rain continues to fall frequently over the lake and the watershed that feeds it. When I last checked (on the US Army Corps of Engineers site) the water had risen 18 inches over the month before and was well above the expected forecast at 247.7 feet. It is expected to continue rising. There have been changes to the levels at which flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River (between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, New York) will be used to lower or maintain levels. Those changes mean that nothing will be done to lower the level unless it reaches 75.53 m or 247.8 feet by about May 1st – tomorrow – or as high as 75.63 m or 248.13 feet by June 1st. As you can see, we are very close to the May level.
In the meantime we are seeing the impact of high water levels in the marina and on the surrounding parkland. The popular beach is much smaller right now, and some days looks more like a sandbar, a flooded area, and a much smaller area of sand. It is littered with the kind of debris that appears when higher waters snatch logs and rubbish from the shore in one place and deposit them in another.
Along the lakefront water has crept up the rocks to plants that normally grow well above it. This means that it covers gently sloping areas that were bare before, and the increased shallows create curling waves that foam or crash against the rocks whenever there is wind. In some places they are breaking against bare soil that rises vertically above rocks that used to provide the area with some protection from erosion.
Higher water has made the entrance to the marina wider and shorter. Today the winds are gusting to 50 km/h and wind-driven waves off the lake are coming well inside the marina entrance, breaking against the rocks on the outside and creating a swell inside. All the boats, with the probably exception of those in the clubs on the far side of the small island, are rocking and rolling – the closer they are to the entrance the more they are moving.
We are tied up to floating docks, and happy to be. But there are fixed docks in the same basin, and today some of those are being swept by the water whenever there is surge, leaving twigs and leaves behind as evidence for those who don’t happen to observe it as it happens. Although we have not checked to see how they are faring – walking is not easy for me when the wind is blowing hard – there are places that are lower than those docks.
The water is also high under the concrete pod at the heart of the marina, with its restaurants, washrooms and laundry room. There are pipes under the pod which carry water and electricity to the docks; they are still above the water, except for one drooping cable we can see. The pipes that run from the pod to land are not quite as high, however, and the water has been lapping at them. At this point there is little we can do except watch the situation.
There is a storm water management pond in the park that is designed to clear sediments from the runoff from some part of the city’s sewer system after rain, so that water entering the lake is cleaner. I know that its effectiveness is affected by heavy runoff; I’m not sure what the effect of high lake levels is on the movement of water through its pods, but it seems logical to assume there is some.
So far the approach for most has been to wait and see. There are reports of flooding along the downtown boardwalk, damage being repaired (and repeated, I expect) along the beach in Ashbridges Bay. The news that lake levels could go higher still is making its slow way through the news media here, but the official view seems to be that we’re just fine. No need for the kind of sandbagging taking place along the New York shore. And no real grasp of all the effects here as the water continues to rise?
I guess we’ll have to wait and what tale time will tell.