The Decision Support Tool better informs the Board by allowing them to examine impacts of outflow strategies across interests and regions, but it cannot eliminate impacts, nor will it make decisions for the Board. The responsibility for making deviation decisions remains firmly with the Board and within the context of existing binational agreements and policies.
The Decision Support Tool provides systematic, objective information to the Board. The Decision Support Tool provides a couple of broad-based metrics of impacts across the system (e.g. inundation of shoreline buildings and tons of commercial navigation cargo affected) along with a feature known as “impact zones” to allow the Board to compare localized high-water impacts on a number of local communities on the Quebec, Ontario and New York shorelines, as well as on Lake St. Lawrence. The Board can examine tradeoffs in consideration of the requirements of the existing Orders of Approval.
Even with the additional information provided by the Decision Support Tool, outflow decisions during extreme conditions will not be easy for the Board. It will be important for the Board to continue to use and practice with the Decision Support Tool under different extreme scenarios to prepare for the next crises conditions.
More research is needed on extreme low water impacts, a fact driven home in the early summer of 2021 when a drought across the region caused the levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to fall well below average. Additional study also is needed of ecosystem and other impacts, and data on these matters should be added to the Decision Support Tool.
Additional research is planned during Phase 2 of the expedited review to provide more information for the interactive tool.
Low water impacts on various interests and regions are being studied and will be added to the Decision Support Tool, so the Board can consider the potential consequences of outflow strategies during times of extreme low water. Ecosystem impacts in the upper and lower St. Lawrence River will also be studied and added to the Decision Support Tool to better inform deviation decisions.
Other research will focus on, for example, erosion of the shoreline in the lower St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario and on the impacts of extreme water levels on recreational boating and tourism. Work is also planned to develop additional metrics on the commercial navigation sector.
The GLAM Committee will continue to undertake targeted efforts to improve information needed by the Board to inform their outflow decisions and improve Lake Ontario outflow management in the future.