St. Lawrence River at 100 year high


Gary Tramontina

Next week, the pros will face a different St. Lawrence River for the HUK Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence presented by Go RVing.

The Bassmaster Elite Series last visited the river in 2015, when Edwin Evers won the tournament with 77 pounds, 10 ounces.

This time there will be more water, lots in fact. The river has swollen to its highest level in 100 years. Unusually heavy rains across the upper Midwest and Northeast filled the Great Lakes and are the reason for so much water in the river.

So much, in fact, that water resource managers are charged with a balancing act of lowering the lakes to prevent shoreline flooding and impacts to commercial shipping.

That’s not easy on the St. Lawrence River. The waterway is the outflow for the entire Great Lakes system. By peculiar, yet factual calculations, lowering Lake Ontario a single inch would raise the water level downstream in Montreal by 10. Even so flooding has already occurred on both sides of the border.

Normally, the Elite pros have unhindered access to the western boundary of tournament waters, which will be the mouth of Lake Ontario. The boats pass beneath the open floodgates of Iroquois Dam, which regulates the outflow of water from the lake into the river.

Those floodgates are closed until further notice. B.A.S.S. worked with officials to create a workaround for the anglers to gain access to the western boundary during the tournament. The good news is the dam also has a lock used for the passage of vessels up and down river.

“The people at the Iroquois Dam are working with us to make this event the best it can be,” said Trip Weldon, B.A.S.S. tournament director. “There is a normal charge of $25 for each occurrence a pleasure boat uses the lock.”

During the tournament that fee is being waived during certain hours. Those are from 6:30-7:30 a.m. for westbound traffic to Lake Ontario, and from 2:15-3:15 p.m. for eastbound traffic returning to the weigh-in site in Waddington, N.Y.

In an email to the pros, Weldon explained commercial traffic would be notified of the times when pleasure craft will be processed through the locks. Vessels included in the fee waiver are tournament and non-tournament boats.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency to enable shoreline property owners to be eligible for financial aid to repair flood-damaged homes and property.

New York also imposed a 5 mph speed limit within 600 feet of the shoreline along the St. Lawrence River. Elite Series pros will be required to follow the no-wake zone ruling.