The federal governments of the US and Canada have approved a new water management plan for the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. After 16 years of research, public and stakeholder involvement, and environmental lobbying, the International Joint Commission (IJC) approved Plan 2014, which will replace Plan 1958, in January 2017. Plan 2014 will use the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence to improve water levels in the two countries’ shared water systems, restoring more natural ecosystem conditions originally displaced by Plan 1958.
The IJC implemented Plan 1958 before ecosystem dynamics were a common consideration in environmental law. The plan shrank the range of water-level variability in the water systems in order to minimize risk to manmade structures caused by extreme highs and lows. Since some plant and animal species did best in relative high or low water-levels, Plan 1958 caused a boom in species that did best in moderate conditions. Consequentially, the ecosystem was overrun by cattails, displacing other species and shrinking biodiversity. By strategically using the dam to increase the overall range of water-levels, Plan 2014 will broaden environmental variability in the area, permitting a greater range of species to survive.