AS HISTORIC WATER LEVELS CONTINUE TO RISE AT LAKE ONTARIO, SCHUMER TOURS FLOODING DAMAGE IN CAYUGA COUNTY & LAUNCHES NEW PUSH TO FUND PERMANENT REPAIR OF VITAL INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTING VILLAGE OF FAIR HAVEN FROM PROPERTY LOSS & DAMAGE ASAP
With Lake Ontario Water Levels Already Hitting Record-Highs & Rising, Schumer Calls On Army Corps To Fund Permanent Fix Of Vital Infrastructure In The Village Of Fair Haven, Which Previously Collapsed In February
Additionally, Schumer Urges The IJC To Come Survey Flooding Damage In Cayuga County & CNY, Similar To Buffalo & Rochester
Schumer: In The Midst Of Historic Flooding, CNY Needs All Hands On Deck ASAP
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today toured flood-ravaged Fair Haven in Cayuga County and reiterated his calls for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to provide funding for repairs to the West Pier and West Barrier Bar of Little Sodus Bay Harbor in the Village of Fair Haven. Schumer explained that years of intense wind and destructive flooding have worn down infrastructure on Little Sodus Bay Harbor and that in February, the West Pier and West Barrier Bar began to collapse, significantly decreasing resiliency in the area. Schumer said the failing infrastructure is a major issue for the Village of Fair Haven that requires expedient resolution, as it is already grappling with the flooding of Lake Ontario for the second time in three years and losing tourism business during the popular summer season.
“With Lake Ontario flooding hitting historic records and wreaking havoc throughout Central New York’s shoreline communities, the Village of Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay Harbor are in desperate need of a long-term fix to their crumbling resiliency infrastructure. The nonstop threat of flooding and damage along the harbor creates the very real possibility of irreparable harm being left on the area’s bustling tourism economy, which must be mitigated before it’s too late,” said Senator Schumer. “The Army Corps implementing a temporary fix on the West Pier was an important step in the right direction, but without longer-lasting measures, will amount to nothing less than putting a Band-Aid on top of a cut that needs stitches. In order to protect the Little Sodus Bay Harbor community from any further loss of revenue and the Central New York economy from costly harm, I’m urging the Army Corps to provide the funding needed to permanently repair the Little Sodus Bay Harbor West Barrier Bar and West Pier.”
Additionally, Schumer called on the International Joint Commission (IJC) to come and survey the flooding damage in Central New York areas like Cayuga and Oswego Counties, as it recently did in the Buffalo and Rochester areas. Schumer continued, “This Lake Ontario situation is dire in nature and requires all-hands-on-deck A-S-A-P. The IJC has a responsibility to analyze all of the flooding damage left along the Great Lakes’ shorelines and figure out how to prevent more of it in the future, and should add a stop in Cayuga County to its itinerary.”
On Friday, June 1, Lake Ontario’s water levels broke the previous record-high reached in 2017, hitting 248.98 feet above sea level. Communities have endured weeks of repeated flooding and erosion and on many lakefront properties, standing water is still present up to about one foot high. With every wind-driven wave, the Lake Ontario shoreline has seen continued and unrelenting damage. The damage from the flooding has been profound, shutting down businesses, damaging homes, property, public infrastructure, and eroding away land and shoreline protections. Additionally, local residents have encountered everything from lake trash to live fish in the basements of their homes.
The flooding has been particularly impactful in the Village of Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay Harbor, due to their status as a popular tourist destination in the summer. Located in the Village of Fair Haven, Little Sodus Bay Harbor is a deep draft recreational harbor providing safe passage between Little Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario. With Fair Haven’s tourism economy depending on the small business community and so much of the small business community harmed by the flooding, the Village is facing the potential loss of a valuable stream of revenue. Furthermore, Little Sodus Bay Harbor is home to nearly 150 shoreline properties worth over $30 million in property value, including residential and vacation homes, marinas, campgrounds and other recreational facilities, all of which are jeopardized by the severe flooding and current lack of quality resiliency infrastructure.
That’s why Schumer specifically called on the USACE to allocate Fiscal Year 2019 Emergency Operations & Maintenance Funding to repair the West Pier and West Barrier Bar of Little Sodus Bay Harbor in the Village of Fair Haven. Schumer thanked the USACE for implementing temporary repairs to the damaged sheetpile along the pier, but argued that without more permanent measures, the fix would amount to nothing more than covering cracks in a boat with duct tape. Schumer said that without the protection of a strong, durable pier and barrier bar, the Little Sodus Bay Harbor community and its many economic contributions to New York State could face significant challenges. Should the channel close down because of this year’s flooding or in the event of future floods, Schumer explained, property value in the area could be reduced and local restaurants and shops could suffer significant loss of business, creating the potential for a residential and tourist “exodus” from the Village of Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay Harbor.
Schumer has been pushing emergency preparation measures along Lake Ontario for months this flooding season and for years beforehand. Last week, Schumer traveled to Niagara and Monroe Counties to tour the flooding damage and advocate for funding for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, which would seek to identify and suggest fixes for vulnerabilities across the Great Lakes’ shorelines. In March of this year, Schumer voiced his support for the confirmation of Jane L. Corwin, Robert C. Sisson and Lance V. Yohe to the IJC, to ensure the Commission was appropriately staffed to address the rising Lake Ontario water levels, and on May 16 announced their successful confirmation. Also this May, Schumer announced that following his push, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an official Declaration of Emergency to activate its Emergency Operations Center to join with state and local efforts to assist Lake Ontario communities in the event of flooding. Additionally, Schumer called on the International Joint Commission (IJC) and International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board of Control to assess and take all actions possible to mitigate flood risks to surrounding communities, including the appropriate maximization of outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.
Furthermore, Schumer explained, in 2017, many communities along the southern shore of Lake Ontario suffered significant flooding and related property damage, economic dislocation and significant negative impacts to quality of life. Prior to the flooding, Schumer successfully called on the USACE to activate its Emergency Operations Center, allowing the USACE to assist New York State in response efforts and deploy technical assistance teams. Additionally, Schumer helped facilitate a “General Permit”, signed by the USACE and NYSDEC in 2017, as well. Schumer also played a paramount role in securing aid for these communities in the wake of the flooding, including arranging for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deploy two expert federal mitigation teams to Lake Ontario communities to help address the flooding issues and successfully pushing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to issue a major disaster declaration, which enabled federal recovery and repair funding to flow to Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Wayne, Cayuga, and Monroe Counties.