(An open letter to Save Our Sodus members.)
In response to the August 24th Opinion in the Times of Wayne County, “Support grows for a new plan to restore Lake Ontario”, I make the following observations.
Of the 41 organizations supporting Plan 2014 (the Plan), only a few of which are enumerated in the text of the opinion, the majority are wildlife or conservancy oriented. The odd man out is my alma mater, Clarkson University, which straddles the most highly developed river per mile, for hydro-electric power generation, in the world. I believe that their support is being influenced by local sentiment within their Institute for a Sustainable Environment.
I have not seen the referenced letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, et al. It claims that, “The letter details how Plan 2014 will protect against extreme water levels…”. What they don’t say is that the extreme water levels they talk about will actually be created by Plan 2014, which proposes higher highs and lower lows vs. the current Plan 1958 DD. Seasonally variable high and low water trigger points, along with new operating guidelines and “adaptive management” influences, as yet unknown, will only serve to exacerbate these extremes. The protection they speak of only applies to the Canadians who have said that they will not accept any plan that subjects them to an economic loss. The losses will all be incurred by the property owners along the south shore of Lake Ontario. The Nature Conservancy claims that the Plan is good because it allows wetland restoration to be accomplished for free. Beware the free lunch. It is a combination of overstated benefits and unintended consequences that have lead us to many disasters.
They claim that the plan will “restore tens of thousands of acres of wetlands…”. That remains speculative; unproven. Most, including Save Our Sodus (SOS) and me, support the concept of revitalizing necessary wetlands and making them a sustainable resource that will mitigate pollutants from runoff. Sodus Bay will benefit very little from the Plan due to our topography. Proven means do exist that would revitalize the Sodus Bay wetlands with no economic loss to waterfront property owners. In fact, water quality and habitat within both the wetlands and the bay would improve from these measures. As the membership is aware, SOS is advocating and pursuing this approach and has testified to the IJC study team to this end.
Their letter claims that the Plan will “boost hydropower production …”. They seem to overlook the fact that the Plan will not create any more water for the generation of hydroelectric power. In fact, during periods of extreme high water, excess water would bypass the powerhouse via the spillway. The only basis for their claim assumes that climate change would create more precipitation within the Lake Ontario watershed and the Great Lakes basin-wide. I would argue that climate change, or perhaps only statistical variation in reality, has an equal chance of reducing the amount of water within the system. This scenario would lead to a reduction in hydropower production. The IJC claims that power generation is the big winner under the Plan. Logic and science do not support that position.
The last point that they make is that the Plan will “enhance outdoor recreation and increase the resilience of 712 miles of Lake Ontario shoreline…”. They clearly weren’t considering Sodus Bay or the Village of Sodus Point when they composed this statement. Our wetlands won’t be restored, a large portion of the Village risks flooding and our shoreline infrastructure may be destroyed or rendered useless. Plan 2014 is such a deal for us. High water shuts us down and low water puts us out of business. The resilience they speak of does not relate to our shoreline infrastructure. In fact, it is not clear to this writer how it is helpful in any way in combating the extremes of high water, low water or storm events.
Why wouldn’t the IJC unanimously support this plan? They concocted it from a ten year old, outdated, $20,000,000 international study with the help and influence of at least some of the 41 parties alluded to, in secrecy behind closed doors. Touted gains are estimates based on projections and a hypothetical future state. No consideration was ever given to the impacts on embayments like Sodus Bay. Contrary to Jim Howe’s claim, the more that I learn about the Plan, the less I like it and I have never supported it.
The letter is appearing throughout the region to garner support for Plan 2014. They obviously no longer feel that the acceptance of Plan 2014 is fait accompli. Let’s rout them from this absurdity. Write your letter or email to Governor Cuomo at www.state.ny.us/governor and make your opposition known. We are fast approaching a decision that, if not in opposition to Plan 2014, will prove catastrophic to our waterfront interests.
David S. Scudder, SOS President