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Largest Lake Ontario outflow in history begins Wednesday, New York governor says it's too late

Last Updated Jun 13, 2017 at 12:49 pm EDT

A man makes his way through the flooded streets in Laval, Que., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Even as swollen rivers have receded in Quebec, some experts suggest historic flooding this year could mean critter and pest-related woes in months and years to come. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again blasting the U.S.-Canadian panel that controls the outflow of water from Lake Ontario, saying the agency bears much of the blame for flooding in New York’s lakeside communities.

“I think they pulled the trigger too late” on increasing outflow, Cuomo said in the Rochester suburb of Greece on Tuesday. “They got behind, and now we have a real problem.”

The International Joint Commission responded to Cuomo’s comments by saying nobody could have predicted the severe flooding throughout the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River system caused by record rainfall.

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The commission-directed board that controls outflow through a St. Lawrence River dam said Tuesday it would increase water releases starting Wednesday.

The Democratic governor returned to flood-damaged Lake Ontario shoreline communities in Monroe and Wayne counties Tuesday amid National Weather Service predictions for more damaging waves and an Army Corps of Engineers forecast of above-average water levels for all five Great Lakes all summer.

Both counties have seen some of the worst damage from flooding that began earlier this spring during heavy rains. Many lakeside communities in an eight-county region stretching from the Niagara River to the St. Lawrence River have sustained at least some damage since May, including shoreline erosion, flooded roads, battered break walls and submerged docks and boat launches.

Cuomo said the flooding has “devastated” the spring-summer tourism season for many lakeside communities.

“When that season gets wiped out, it has economic consequences for the entire year,” he said.

Some lakeside residents and local officials have blamed the flooding on the International Joint Commission, the U.S.-Canada board that governs outflows from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River.

New York residents and officials want the board to release more water through a dam on the river, but the commission also must consider flood-ravaged downstream communities as well as cargo ships that would be hampered by increased currents.

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit announced Monday that water levels for all of the Great Lakes are expected to be higher than average into the fall. The agency predicts Lake Ontario’s level will start to lower this month but remain higher than average into November.

Cuomo was last in the Rochester area in late May, when he announced that $7 million in state funding would be available to homeowners affected by flooding.

His latest visit to lakeside areas comes as the National Weather Service has issued lakeshore flooding watches for Tuesday night into Wednesday afternoon from Wayne County west to the Niagara River due to wind-driven waves.