IJC Calls for More Study of Lake Flooding

The International Joint Commission (IJC) delivered recommendations to Canada and the United States in late July regarding a Plan of Study for flooding in the Lake Champlain Richelieu River basin. They called for a $14.3 million dollar boondoggle that would rehash issues previously studied in 1937 and 1981.

The recommendations were spurred by the spring flooding of 2011. The United States and Canada asked the IJC to establish a Work Group in March 2012 to draft a plan to study the causes of flooding, analyze flood mitigation solutions, and develop possible structural and non-structural flood mitigation measures on Lake Champlain and the Richelieu River. 

“There is no reason to expect that more studies will lead to any different conclusions from those reached in 1981,” said LCC Staff Scientist Mike Winslow. “The key to reducing flood damage is to prevent people from building too close to the water, not in building costly dams or other water regulation tools.” LCC has long been opposed to lake level regulation because of the associated high ecological costs of lost wetlands, duck breeding habitat, and fish spawning grounds.

The IJC’s report to the governments did include some worthwhile recommendations that LCC endorses. We strongly support implementation of floodplain land use regulation by local governments to keep new development away from flood areas; strengthening federal governments' transboundary coordination of flood preparedness, forecasting, and response; and an analysis of broad-scale climatological data in an effort to provide earlier predictions of when lake flooding might occur.  

The International Joint Commission was established under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the United States and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over the use of the waters the two countries share. Its responsibilities include considering applications for projects that affect the natural levels and flows of waters shared by both countries.

It is now the responsibility of the governments of the United States and Canada to find funding for any studies that would take place. LCC will continue to voice our opposition to any damming of Lake Champlain through this process.