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July 31, 2013

International group releases report on lake flooding

PLATTSBURGH — The United States and Canada should look jointly at the causes and impacts of Lake Champlain and Richelieu River flooding and develop measures to reduce the potential for major problems.

That is the recommendation of the International Joint Commission, designed to address issues relevant to both countries. This week, the commission endorsed a $14 million study of the Lake Champlain/Richelieu River watershed.

2011 FLOODS

A work group comprising regional experts was charged with the task in March 2012 in response to the spring flooding of 2011.

At that time, Lake Champlain exceeded flood stage for 67 days, damaging nearly 4,000 homes and creating tens of millions of dollars in damage.

The work group held public-comment sessions throughout the watershed during its study and also collected comments from municipal officials and other stakeholders.

It came up with three recommendations, including its chosen alternative: a five-year $14 million assessment of flooding and possible solutions.

ESTABLISH JOINT BOARD

It is recommended that the U.S. and Canadian governments create an international study board to develop a model to examine the movement and distribution of water throughout the watershed and look at flood-mitigation measures, said Bill Howland, executive director for the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

“They will have a lot of public consultation throughout (the study) so that everybody understands the process from a physical, socioeconomic and ecological perspective.”

REGULATE DEVELOPMENT

The report also recommends that local, regional, state and provincial governments do everything they can to minimize the impact of flooding by regulating new development in flood-prone areas.

“We really need to get a grip on this (flooding issue),” Howland said. “It’s an enormous part of the problems the lake faces.”

OPTIONS

The first option in the list of recommendations involves a three-year, $5 million study that would evaluate the causes and impacts of past floods, assess possible flood-management practice and plan for future changes in the watershed.

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