Lake Ontario water levels lower for 2014

By Debra J. Groom

Early estimates show water levels in Lake Ontario may be a bit lower in 2014 through June than they were in 2013.

A briefing on Great Lakes water levels given this week by the Army Corps of Engineers stated levels for February are 4 inches above last year for the month and near the long-term average for February.

But, long-range forecasts show through May, the lake’s level should be about 2 inches below last year and 2 inches to 4 inches below the long-range average through May.

The level is forecast at 3 inches below average in June and 5 inches to 7 inches below the long-range average in June.

So what does this mean?

Well, right now, no one knows for sure.

Cathy Goodnough is president of the Sandy Pond Channel Maintenance Association, which is charged with keeping an eye on water levels in the Sandy Pond area and ensuring the channel between the pond and the lake is open for boaters.

She said the area still has to see what the ice melt and snow runoff from the areas east of the lake do to the water levels. She said there was so much ice in January the Sandy Pond area flooded.

“We have 24 inches of ice here right now and we got a lot of snow,” she said Thursday.

One positive is the ice buildup at the Sandy Pond area. Goodnough said the channel between Sandy Pond and the lake close dup in January and the ice formation sucked a lot of water and sand out of the channel.

Last summer lake water levels fluctuated from being a little above average to a little below average, with Goodnough characterizing it as not a disaster, but not perfect either.

Residents of the lake shoreline have seen some bad times in previous years, with water levels so low they couldn’t get watr lines in or use their boats.

The International Joint Commission, consisting of U.S. and Canadian officials, regulate Lake Ontario water levels throughout the summer.

The cold and snow of this winter has caused near record conditions on the Great Lakes.

As of March 4, 91 percent of the Great Lakes’ surface was iced over. The lake with the most open water is Lake Ontario, which is ony 43 percent covered by ice.

The Army Corps of Engineers said the only year with more Great Lakes ice was 1979, when they were 94.7 percent ice covered.

Officials said extensive ice cover cuts down on lake water evaporation, so Lake Ontario is open to more water evaporation than the other lakes.

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