Flirting with shipping shutdown; St. Lawrence flow at 19 year high

In this Monday, May 22, 2017 photo from the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board Facebook page, eight gates are open on the spillway at the dam near Long Sault, Ont. Monday, May 22, 2017. The St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario have not seen an outflow of water this high since 1998. (International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board/Facebook via Newswatch Group)

BURLINGTON, Ont. – The agency overseeing water control on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario says more water is rushing out to the Atlantic Ocean than ever recorded in the last 19 years.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board gave another 200 cubic meter per second bump to outflows on Lake Ontario on Tuesday to 10,000 cubic meters a second (353,100 cubic feet per second).

To give you an idea, that’s enough water to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools every second.

The board said outflows from Lake Ontario haven’t been this high since 1998 and the actual lake level is the highest it’s ever been since reliable records began in 1918.

The seaway received clearance from ship operators to move outflows beyond the safety threshold of 9,910 cubic meters a second and that “they (ship operators) would be able to handle steady flows as high as 10,200 m3/s without shipping shutdowns,” according to a posting on the board’s Facebook page.

The shippers have asked for 72-hours notice should flows go past 10,200 cubic meters a second, a board spokesman said, “as this will definitely result in shipping shutdowns and further transit restrictions.”

That likely wouldn’t happen until next week.

A meeting of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board is scheduled for Monday (May 29) to discuss potentially higher flows.

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation spokesman Andrew Bogora told CNW Thursday morning they don’t anticipate a shipping shutdown given the current conditions.