Transcript: Checking In on the Great Lakes | Sep 16, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, blue shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Checking in on the Great Lakes. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says FOR MORE THAN A
CENTURY, CANADA AND THE UNITED
STATES HAVE WORKED TOGETHER
THROUGH THE IJC - THE
INTERNATIONAL JOINT COMMISSION -
TO PROTECT ONE OF NORTH
AMERICA'S MOST PRECIOUS
RESOURCES, THE GREAT LAKES.
IN 2016, THE IJC INTRODUCED A
NEW PLAN TO REGULATE WATER
LEVELS IN LAKE ONTARIO AND THE
ST. LAWRENCE, WHICH RESIDENTS
SAY HAS LED TO WIDESPREAD
FLOODING.
JOINING US NOW FROM
WASHINGTON, DC, FOR MORE ON THAT
AND OTHER CONCERNS FACING THE
LAKES:
PIERRE BELAND, CANADIAN CHAIR
AND COMMISSIONER AT THE IJC.

Pierre is in his sixties, clean-shaven, with short, receding white hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a gray suit, white shirt, and patterned brown tie.

Steve speaks in French, then says
HELLO.
HOW ARE YOU?

Pierre says I'M VERY WELL, THANK YOU.

Steve says GLAD TO HAVE YOU ON
TVO TONIGHT. JUST GIVE US SOME
BACKGROUND BRIEFLY, IF YOU WILL.
THE IJC ITSELF, HOW DOES IT WORK?

The caption changes to "Pierre Béland. International Joint Commission."
Then, it changes again to "Guarding the waters."

Pierre says THE IJC WAS
PUT TOGETHER THROUGH A TREATY
BETWEEN CANADA AND THE U.S. IN
1909.
THROUGH THAT TREATY, BOTH
GOVERNMENTS AGREED THAT THEY
WOULD GIVE THE MANAGEMENT OF
SOME BODIES OF WATER ON THE
BORDER, STRADDLING OR CROSSING
THE BORDER, TO THIS BODY, THE
IJC.
THREE COMMISSIONERS ARE
APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF
THE UNITED STATES AND THREE BY
THE PRIVY COUNCIL IN CANADA.

Steve says AND YOU'RE ONE OF
OUR THREE, AS IT WERE?

Pierre says I AM THE CANADIAN CO-CHAIR.

Steve says OKAY. A FEW YEARS
BACK, THE IJC APPROVED SOMETHING
CALLED PLAN 2014.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THAT.
WHAT IS IT?

The caption changes to "Pierre Béland, @IJCsharedwaters."

Pierre says IT'S ONE OF TWO PLANS THAT
WERE USED SINCE THE CREATION OF
THE ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY AND THE
DAM BETWEEN CORNWALL AND MESINA,
NEW YORK, THE MOSES SANDERS DAM,
AND THE PLAN DETERMINES HOW WE
LET WATER THROUGH THAT DAM
THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
THE ORIGINAL PLAN WAS CALLED
1958, AND IT THEN... THERE WERE
SOME DEVIATIONS ADDED AND IT
BECAME 1958 DD BUT THEN ABOUT 12
YEARS AGO BOTH GOVERNMENTS
DECIDED TO STUDY HOW THE PLAN
HAD FUNCTIONED OVER THE YEARS
AND TRY AND ACCOMMODATE SOME
CHANGES TO FAVOUR WETLANDS AND
FAVOUR SOME SPECIES OF FISH THAT
NEED WATER AT A CERTAIN TIME OF
THE YEAR FOR REPRODUCTION, FOR
EXAMPLE, AND THE PLAN WAS
STUDIED EXTENSIVELY BY EXPERTS
ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER AND
IT WAS ADOPTED IN DECEMBER 2016
AND STARTED OPERATING IN JANUARY 2017.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says AND WHY WAS IT FELT
THAT THE WATER LEVELS NEEDED TO
BE CHANGED IN THE AREA THAT
YOU'VE DESCRIBED EARLIER?

Pierre says IT'S NOT THAT THE WATER
LEVELS NEEDED TO BE CHANGED.
WHAT WE HAVE TO CONSIDER IS OUR
VARIOUS INTERESTS, RIPARIANS
THAT LIVE BOTH ALONG LAKE
ONTARIO AND DOWNSTREAM AND ALONG
THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER...
NAVIGATION; HYDRO ELECTRIC
PRODUCTION, OF COURSE; AND ALSO
MUNICIPALITIES THAT TAKE WATER
FROM THE RIVER; AND THEN
RECREATIONAL BOATERS; AND
FINALLY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION.

Steve says OKAY.
YOU KNOW THERE HAS BEEN CONCERN
BY SOME ABOUT THE WATER LEVELS
IN THE AREA AND, WELL, WHAT DO
YOU SAY?
WE REACHED OUT TO A GROUP CALLED
UNITED SHORELINE ONTARIO. THEY
REPRESENT SOME PROPERTY OWNERS.
I WANT TO TELL YOU THEIR VIEWS
AND THEN GET YOUR REACTION TO
IT. THEY HAVE SAID THAT...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Statement on Lake Ontario flooding." The quote reads "Plan 2014 is a plan that, by design, allows for higher highs in the fall and winter by about a foot, making the shoreline LESS resilient to extreme weather conditions because you can't move the water out fast enough during a wet spring. This was predicted in 2008, but implemented anyways, and the exact conditions that were predicted have happened 2 out of 3 years. Why would the IJC bring a plan into place that is less adaptable and flexible to extreme weather conditions?"
Quoted from United Shoreline Ontario. September 11, 2019.

Steve says THAT'S THE QUESTION THEY ASK.
WHAT'S YOUR ANSWER?

The caption changes to "A flawed plan?"

Pierre says I WOULD SAY IT IS A VERY LONG
QUESTION WITH SO MANY THINGS IN IT.
I WILL TRY AND EXPLAIN WHAT WE
ARE DOING, AND THIS WILL ANSWER
TO THE CRITICISM FROM THESE
PEOPLE.
FIRSTLY, WE DO NOT REGULATE LAKE
ONTARIO, WE REGULATE THE FLOW AT
A DAM THAT IS ABOUT 160
KILOMETRES DOWNSTREAM OF LAKE
ONTARIO, ABOUT HALFWAY BETWEEN
LAKE ONTARIO AND MONTREAL.
AND WE HAVE TO CONSIDER ALL
INTERESTS DOWNSTREAM, EVEN
BEYOND MONTREAL, AND ALL THE
INTERESTS UPSTREAM AS WELL AS
THE PEOPLE ON THE RIVER.
ESSENTIALLY PLAN 2014 IS NO
DIFFERENT FROM THE PREVIOUS
PLAN.
IT ONLY HAS PROVISIONS FOR A
HIGHER LEVEL OF WATER, A FEW
INCHES IN THE FALL AND A FEW
INCHES IN THE SPRING.
SOME YEARS... OTHER YEARS, IT
WOULD HAVE LESS WATER THAN
PREVIOUSLY.
THE IDEA IS TO CREATE A
VARIATION FROM YEAR TO YEAR ON
THE LEVELS FOR A SHORT PERIOD IN
THE FALL AND IN THE SPRING.
THERE IS NO... ABSOLUTELY NO
INTENT OF KEEPING THE LAKE ONE
FOOT HIGHER, AS THEY SAY.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTER THE
INCEPTION OF THE NEW PLAN WERE
EXCEPTIONAL METEOROLOGICAL
CIRCUMSTANCES.
WE HAD THE WETTEST WINTER IN
2017.
THE WETTEST SPRING IN 2017
BEFORE THAT.
AND SO THAT THE LAKE LEVEL ROSE.
WE CANNOT RAISE THE LEVEL OF
LAKE ONTARIO.
WE CAN ONLY FLOW WATER OUT OF
LAKE ONTARIO.
WE HAVE NO MEANS OF KEEPING
WATER ON THE LAKE.
AND WE HAVE BEEN TRYING, BECAUSE
THESE WERE EXCEPTIONAL
CIRCUMSTANCES, TO FLOW AS MUCH
WATER AS WE COULD OUT OF THE
LAKE.
BUT IT KEPT RAINING.
THERE WAS A LOT OF SNOW.
AND THIS IS BASICALLY WHAT
NATURE DID TO US.
AND WE HAD EXCEPTIONAL AMOUNTS
OF WATER, EXCEPTIONAL SUPPLY
COMING FROM LAKE ERIE, COMING
FROM ALL THE TRIBUTARIES INTO
LAKE ONTARIO, AND COMING FROM
THE SKY.
AND THIS WENT ON FOR A LONG
PERIOD OF TIME.
WE WERE ABLE TO REDUCE THE LAKE
TO A CERTAIN EXTENT IN 2017 AND
THE YEAR AFTER, 2018, WAS
PERFECT.
WE BROUGHT THE LAKE BACK TO ITS
AVERAGE... LONG-TERM AVERAGE
LEVEL.

Steve says SO IS IT YOUR VIEW
THAT OVER TIME, THINGS WILL EVEN OUT?

Pierre says THEY MAY.
IT DEPENDS ON WHAT HAPPENS.
FOR EXAMPLE, IN THE FALL OF
2018, WE HAD THE WETTEST MONTH
IN OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER
THAT WE'VE EVER SEEN BEFORE.
SO THE LAKE ROSE AGAIN.
AND WHEN 2019 STARTED, WE HAD A
BAD WINTER AGAIN.
WE COULD NOT MANAGE WATER THE
WAY WE WANTED TO BECAUSE OF ICE.
AND THEN WE HAD THE WETTEST
MONTHS OF APRIL AND MAY EVER.
AND THIS WAS TRUE THROUGHOUT
NORTH AMERICA.
SO THE LAKE ROSE AGAIN, AND WE
WERE FLOWING RECORD LEVELS OF
WATER OUT OF THE LAKE ALL
THROUGH THE SUMMER, SINCE JUNE
TO AUGUST, 70 DAYS AT MAXIMUM
OUTFLOW, AND WE HAVE REDUCED THE
LAKE BY ABOUT 51 TO 53
CENTIMETRES AS OF TODAY, AND THE
REST DEPENDS ON WEATHER.
IF IT DOESN'T RAIN EXCESSIVELY
DURING THE FALL, WE WILL
PROBABLY REDUCE THE LAKE NOT FAR
FROM ITS NORMAL LEVEL FOR THAT
TIME OF YEAR.
AND THEN WE HAVE TO EXPECT... OR
WE HAVE TO WAIT WHAT WILL HAPPEN
DURING THE WINTER AND NEXT
SPRING.
WE HOPE IT WILL NOT BE A WET
SPRING, BUT WE CANNOT PREDICT
THAT.

Steve says SO UNLIKE WHAT
UNITED SHORELINE ONTARIO IS
SAYING, YOU FEEL YOU ARE DOING
YOUR JOB, YOU ARE BEING ADAPTIVE
TO THE CIRCUMSTANCES YOU'RE
PRESENTED WITH.
YOU THINK IT'S GOING OKAY?

Pierre says NO, IT'S NOT GOING OKAY IN
THE SENSE THAT PEOPLE ARE STILL
FLOODED IN SOME AREAS.
BUT WHAT I'M SAYING IS THAT IT
IS NOT DUE TO THE WAY WE MANAGE
THE DAM.
IT'S DUE TO WHAT IS SENT TO US
BY ABOVE.

Steve says I UNDERSTAND.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Pierre says BOTH FROM THE OTHER LAKES,
LAKE ERIE IS AT AN ALL-TIME
HIGH.
LAKE SUPERIOR IS EXCESSIVELY
HIGH.
AND ALL THE GREAT LAKES ARE
HIGH.
SO ALL THIS WATER HAS TO COME
DOWN TO LAKE ERIE AND END UP IN
LAKE ONTARIO.
SUPPLY TO LAKE ONTARIO,
85 PERCENT OF IT COMES FROM THE
NIAGARA RIVER.
SO WE CAN EXPECT THAT WE WILL
HAVE HIGH SUPPLY FROM THE
NIAGARA RIVER FOR THE COMING
MONTHS.
BUT IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN
THAT WHAT IS THE SITUATION NOW
WILL BE THE SITUATION NEXT
SPRING.
IT WILL DEPEND ON... YOU KNOW,
THE CLIMATE, YOU KNOW, LOCAL
METEOROLOGY.

Steve says WITH THAT U.S.
CAPITOL DOME BEHIND YOU, I DID
WANT TO ASK YOU A QUESTION ABOUT
AMERICAN POLITICS.
I KNOW THERE ARE SEVERAL
LAWMAKERS ON THE AMERICAN SIDE
OF THE BORDER WHO ARE EAGER TO
HAVE PRESIDENT TRUMP USE AN
EXECUTIVE ORDER TO WITHDRAW THE
UNITED STATES FROM PLAN 2014 AND
I WONDER HOW WORRIED YOU ARE
ABOUT THAT?

Pierre says WELL, I AM NOT WORRIED
BECAUSE THE IJC HAS BEEN THERE
FOR A LONG TIME.
WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT WE HAVE
THE BEST EXPERTS FROM BOTH
COUNTRIES WHO HAVE DRAWN THIS
PLAN AND WE HAVE THE BEST
EXPERTS WHO ARE MANAGING THIS
PLAN ON A DAY-TO-DAY BASIS, AND
IF EITHER COUNTRY WOULD GET RID
OF THE TREATY, THEY WOULD STILL
HAVE TO FIND A GROUP OF PEOPLE
TO MANAGE WATER FROM THAT DAM,
AND MY KNOWLEDGE OF THE SYSTEM
AND MY KNOWLEDGE OF THE PEOPLE
WHO MANAGE IT NOW IS THAT THE
NEXT GROUP OF PEOPLE WOULD DO
EXACTLY THE SAME THING AS WE ARE DOING.

Steve says WELL, I DON'T MEAN
TO BE A SMART ALEC WHEN I SAY
THIS, BUT THIS IS AN
ADMINISTRATION THAT IS NOT
NECESSARILY ALWAYS PERSUADED BY
EMPIRICALLY PROVABLE FACTS.
SO DOES THAT WORRY YOU?

Pierre says WELL, WHAT WORRIES ME IS THAT
WE ARE SOMETIMES UNABLE TO
CONVINCE THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO
THIS HARDSHIP DUE TO HIGH WATERS
THAT WE ARE DOING THE JOB THAT
WE SHOULD BE DOING, AND WE ARE
TRYING TO ESTABLISH MORE
CONFIDENCE FROM THEM TOWARD US,
AND THIS WORRIES ME MORE THAN
PEOPLE WHO DO NOT LIVE IN THE BASIN.

Steve says OKAY.
I'VE GOT ABOUT A MINUTE LEFT,
MR. CHAIR, AND I WONDER IF YOU
WOULD TELL ME, WHAT'S THE OTHER
BIG ISSUE THAT IS ON THE IJC'S
PLATE RIGHT NOW THAT IS TAKING
MUCH OF YOUR TIME?

The caption changes to "Looking ahead."

Pierre says WELL, PRESENTLY WE ARE IN A
CYCLE WE CALL A TRIANNUAL CYCLE
ON GREAT LAKES WATER QUALITY AND
WE ARE TRAVELLING AROUND THE
BASIN, MEETING WITH THE PUBLIC,
TO ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK THE
GOVERNMENTS HAVE DONE OVER THE
LAST THREE YEARS TO HELP
CONTINUE TO CLEAN UP THE GREAT
LAKES.
SO THIS IS TAKING A LOT OF OUR
TIME, AND WE ARE MEETING WITH
TONS OF PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.
WE HEAR VERY INTERESTING THINGS
AND WE THINK THERE HAS BEEN A
LOT OF PROGRESS, AND MORE NEEDS
TO BE DONE AND WE'RE SORT OF THE
WATCHDOG ON THIS.

The caption changes to "Producer: Katie O'Connor, @KA_OConnor."

Steve says UNDERSTOOD.
MR. BELAND, IT'S GOOD OF YOU TO
MAKE SOME TIME FOR US ON TVO
TONIGHT. THANKS SO MUCH.
AND NICE TO MEET YOU.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Pierre says YOU'RE WELCOME. THANK YOU.

Watch: Checking In on the Great Lakes