With Lake Ontario Water Levels Already Hitting Record-Highs & Still Rising, Schumer Calls For All-Of-The-Above Approach To Lake Ontario Flood Prevention To Stave Off Catastrophic Damage 

While Visiting Monroe County And Getting A First-Hand Look At The Damage, Schumer Launches Major Effort To Fund “The Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study,” To Plan & Fund New Shoreline Protections 

Schumer: Let's Make Annual "Historic" Floods HISTORY For Monroe Residents -- Congress Must Prioritize Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Blueprint ASAP

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today toured flood-ravaged Lake Ontario communities in Monroe County and launched a major effort to secure funding for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, which seeks to both identify vulnerable areas on the Great Lakes’ shorelines and recommend new shoreline protections to fund to increase resilience to various types of damage. Schumer explained that following the destructive floodwaters that devastated Lake Ontario’s shoreline in 2017, causing millions of dollars in damages, and again this year, the need to plan now how to strengthen Great Lakes infrastructure for the future is clear. Additionally, Schumer stated that with Lake Ontario’s water levels having already broken 2017’s record high and still climbing higher, an all-hands-on-deck and all-of-the-above approach to flood management and resiliency is a necessity. Therefore, Schumer called on Congress to fully fund the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study during the appropriations process, to ensure that the infrastructure on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie is fully capable of weathering the storms of the future. Additionally, Schumer vowed to fight for any and all federal aid and technical support that could help the Lake Ontario communities recover.

“With 2017’s historic Lake Ontario flooding not just repeating, but worsening itself and surrounding communities suffering—for the second time in three years—millions of dollars in damages to public and private property, it is obvious that we need all hands on deck and an all-of-the-above approach, meaning a coordinated response from federal, state and local government, to address the costly vulnerabilities on the lake. The obvious place to start is to fund and initiate the Army Corps’ Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study,” said Senator Schumer. “The Army Corps has a proven track record of executing blueprints that boost shoreline resiliency and it's about time they do so on Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to fully fund this landmark plan during the appropriations process, but until then, I will be fighting with every fiber of my being for any and all of the federal aid and technical support available to help these Lake Ontario communities recover.”

On Friday, June 1, Lake Ontario’s water levels broke the previous record-high reached in 2017, hitting 248.98 feet above sea level. Schumer explained that the resultant floods have been wreaking havoc across Lake Ontario communities. 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. Schumer explained that even though tens of millions of dollars—from both federal and state government—were spent on temporary measures following the historic flooding of 2017, a long-term plan to increase resiliency is of the utmost importance.

This is why last year, Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) fought to authorize the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study in the Water Resources Developmental Act of 2018. The study would cost a total of $12 million over four years, 75% of which would be funded by the federal government, and the other 25% by the eight Great Lakes state governments. Today, Schumer launched a major effort to fully fund the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study during this year’s appropriations process. The Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study would be run by the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and designed to fortify infrastructure and protect both the built and natural areas along the Great Lakes coastline, ensuring that shoreline communities like those along Lake Ontario are better equipped to withstand, recover from and adapt to disruptive events like flooding or storms. Schumer explained that in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the USACE created a similar blueprint that successfully paved the way to then fund new infrastructure projects that are boosting the resiliency of New York’s Atlantic shoreline, showing that the agency is fully capable of doing the same for the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study.

Specifically, the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study was developed to safeguard against threats like flooding and erosion and is vital to protecting the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline, as well as the 4.2 million people who live within two miles of the coastline. The Study will be an infrastructure investment strategy for the Lake Ontario and Great Lakes coast that will result in a blueprint that identifies vulnerable areas and recommends measures that can be funded to increase resiliency and to protect the coastline. The study will evaluate and recommend an array of structural, natural, and regulatory measures to protect the coastline such as building breakwaters, adding coastal armoring or protective stone groins, developing new resilient design standards, restoring protective barrier islands, conducting beach sand replenishment, and more. Without this plan, the Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Division has warned the Great Lakes will face an increased risk of coastal damage in the future and will suffer from management strategies that continue to address this problem through a piecemeal approach that is both inefficient and limited in effectiveness.  Protecting this coastline is critical to a robust economy and the tourism industry in the Great Lakes, which includes 60 commercial harbors, a maritime economy valued at $17.3 billion and generating 293,000 jobs, a $14 billion Great Lakes recreation and tourism economy, and a diverse ecosystem of features such as wetlands, bluffs, dunes, beaches, and species that are either threatened or endangered.

Schumer was joined by Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich and local officials.

“I am pleased to welcome Senator Schumer to witness first-hand the impacts shoreline residents are once again experiencing from record high water levels,” said Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich. “We continue to advocate for action on the part of the Joint Commission, and we fully support Senator Schumer’s push to get the Army Corps to fund this critically important study.”

Schumer has been pushing emergency preparation measures along Lake Ontario for months this flooding season and for years beforehand. 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 millions in federal recovery and repair funding to flow to Jefferson, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Wayne, Cayuga, and Monroe Counties.


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