SCHUMER: SUMMERVILLE PIER IN IRONDEQUOIT IS A NIGHTTIME HAZARD FOR LAKE ONTARIO BOATERS, WITH TWO BOATS HAVING ALREADY CRASHED INTO IT THIS SUMMER – SCHUMER URGES COAST GUARD & ARMY CORPS TO INSTALL LIGHTS & OTHER SAFETY MEASURES AT PIER TO KEEP BOATERS SAFE
Summerville Pier Juts Out 3,000 Feet Into Lake Ontario, But Is Only Illuminated By Navigation Lights At The Very Tip of the Pier – Lack of Light & Low Pier Height Make The Pier Hard To Spot at Night & A Life- Threatening Hazard for Boaters
Two Boats Have Crashed Into Pier This Summer & Many Other Incidents Have Occurred In the Past, Including a 2008 Incident Where 3 People Died – Charlotte Pier Just to the West Does Not Have Same Deadly Track Record, Demonstrating Need for Better Lighting and Safety Precautions At Summerville Pier
Schumer: Installing Better Lighting is Cheap, Easy and Can Help Avoid Boating Disaster at Summerville Pier
Today, at Summerville Pier at the Port of Rochester, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to install lights and other safety measures at Summerville Pier, which has been the site of two late-night boating accidents this summer, and multiple similar accidents in the past, including one in 2008 where three people lost their lives. Schumer said that the lack of light on the pier, as well as its low height in relation to Charlotte Pier, which runs parallel to Summerville Pier just to the west, makes it an extreme hazard for boaters who may not see the pier at night. Schumer said that the navigation lights at the end of the pier are clearly not enough to keep boaters out of harm’s way and more must be done to keep Rochester-area boaters safe.
“Summer is an exciting time of year for Rochester-area boaters. But when they finally do take to the water, the last thing they should have to worry about is hitting a pier, especially one that is supposed to guide them at night and bring them home safely,” said Schumer. “At the Port of Rochester’s Summerville Pier, there have been far too many injuries and deaths caused as a result of inadequate lighting on the pier. While the single red and green lights at the very tip of the pier are in compliance with Coast Guard standards, it is clear the over half-mile pier should have additional lighting in other places in order to ensure that unsuspecting boaters do not crash into it. Having more lights will enable boaters to see the pier better at night and help prevent future crashes into the nearly invisible pier.”
Schumer continued, “Sometimes just doing the minimum required by the letter of the law is not enough. And when it comes to boater safety and the Summerville Pier, the Coast Guard and Army Corps need to go the extra yard and promptly install more safety lighting and other features that can ward off future accidents and tragedies.”
The Summerville Pier juts out 3,000 feet, over a half mile, perpendicular to the Rochester shoreline and forms the eastern side of the Port of Rochester navigation channel. The Charlotte Pier also juts out a slightly further distance and forms the western side of the channel. Together both piers total approximately 1.1 miles in length. Schumer explained that both are only illuminated by single red and green navigation lights at the very end of the piers. Schumer said that the lack of light throughout the length of the 3,000-foot Summerville pier, as well as its low height in relation to Charlotte Pier to the west, makes it an extreme hazard for boaters who may not see the pier at night. Many boaters describe the pier as an “optical illusion” with the Summerville Pier appearing to sit lower than the western Charlotte pier, which makes it nearly invisible to the eye under even good night-time conditions.
Schumer said that the frequency of boat collisions at the Summerville Pier at the Port of Rochester compared to the Charlotte Pier highlights the fact that Summerville is inadequately illuminated and dangerous for boaters. Schumer further said that, while the USACE maintains the Summerville Pier, the USCG enforces navigation laws and responds to crashes like the ones that have happened at the pier. Therefore, he is calling on the two agencies to work together to assess the safety deficiencies of the current lighting situation and to investigate opportunities to add lighting to the pier. Schumer said that the fact that the vast majority of accidents are occurring at the Summerville Pier and not the Charlotte Pier, which runs parallel just to the west, only underscores that there is a safety hazard at the east pier and that there is a critical need for safety measures.
The Summerville Pier is currently marked with the standard red and green navigation lights that leave it in compliance with USCG standards. However, Schumer, is calling on the USCG and USACE to work together to evaluate adding lighting beyond the minimum requirements, in light of the several crashes that have taken places over the past few years. While installing extra lights on the Summerville Pier would be a unique case, Schumer said that it is desperately needed in order to save lives in the future and ensure safe navigation. In addition to urging the USACE and USCG to look into additional lighting, Schumer also called on the two agencies to look into any other safety measures besides lighting that could lower the number of accidents and save lives.
So far this summer, two boats have crashed into the Summerville Pier, injuring a total of eight people. The boats were traveling along the shore at night and its operators could not see the eastern pier despite its light at the tip of the pier. Schumer noted that these latest accidents are not isolated incidents, but rather are the latest in a series of incidents over the past several years in which boats crashed into the Summerville Pier. The Summerville Pier was previously struck by a boat in July 2011 injuring three, in August 2008 injuring four, and in June 2008 killing three and injuring two others. Schumer explained that many local boaters have contacted him about the perceived lighting inadequacies at the pier. Schumer said this situation needs to be addressed, particularly when you consider that boat crashes are only occurring on the Summerville Pier and not the Charlotte Pier, which sits higher above the water and may be more easily visible at night due to more onshore lights.
Schumer was joined by State Senator Ted O’Brien; Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle; Irondequoit Town Supervisor Adam Bello; Mark Gregor and Doreen Kirkmire from the City of Rochester Harbor Management team; Marina owner Steve Gibbs; and many local boaters, including Tom Sanfilipo, Ann Fields, and Frank and Mariangela Ardino.
“One of our greatest assets in Irondequoit is our access to Lake Ontario and creating an environment that residents, beach-goers and boaters can safely enjoy this asset is a top priority,” said Adam Bello, Supervisor for the Town of Irondequoit. “In the wake of more boaters crashing into the Summerville Pier, I’ve heard from many concerned residents who are asking that something be done to address this situation. Being a responsible boater is the number one way that accidents can be prevented but it is clear that the pier is not well lit and is difficult to see at night making it a hazard to even the most responsible boater. Senator Schumer is a tireless advocate for our community on so many issues and I appreciate his push to fix this hazard and help stop future boaters from inadvertently striking the pier.”
“I have lived and boated all of my adult life on Lake Ontario and have personally experienced the difficulty seeing the Summerville pier at night,” said local boater Tom SanFilipo. “It is difficult to see even under good evening conditions even though you are familiar with it. The pier extends hundreds of feet into the lake and without adequate safety illumination poses a navigational hazard that merits attention especially in light of the coming new development on the River which no doubt will attract more non local boaters.”
A copy of Senator Schumer's letter to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General Kent D. Savre is included below:
Dear Admiral Zukunft and Brigadier General Savre,
I write to call your attention to concerns that the Summerville Pier at the Port of Rochester is not sufficiently visible to boaters, particularly at night or during times of poor visibility, thus creating a navigation hazard that warrants a federal review by the U.S. Coast Guard to determine how to illuminate the pier and remove this hazard. Currently both the Summerville Pier, which juts out 3000 feet perpendicular from the shoreline and forms the eastern side of the Port of Rochester navigation channel, as well as the western “Charlotte” pier that forms the western side of the channel, are only illuminated by single red and green navigation lights at the tip of the piers.
So far this summer two boats have crashed into the Summerville pier, injuring four people in each case as the boats were traveling along the shore westbound during the night. These latest accidents are not isolated events, but rather are the latest in a series of incidents over the past several years in which boats crashed into the Summerville pier. For example, the Summerville Pier was struck by a boat in July 2011 injuring three, in August 2008 injuring four, and in June 2008 killing three and injured two others. While alcohol was determined to be a factor in some of these incidents, my office has heard from local officials and experienced boaters who are nonetheless concerned that the Summerville Pier remains inadequately illuminated and visible even during safe boating operations. One boater described the situation as “an optical illusion” with the Summerville pier appearing to sit lower than the western Charlotte pier and thus becomes invisible to the eye under even good night time conditions. This observation merits consideration, particularly when you consider that boat crashes are only occurring on the Summerville pier and not the Charlotte pier, which rises higher and may be more easily visible at night due to onshore lights.
Therefore, I ask that the U.S. Coast Guard in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if warranted, review the situation, report on any safety deficiencies, and specifically investigate adding more lighting along the length of the east pier, or otherwise marking the pier with reflectors or hazard markings to safeguard boaters.
I appreciate your consideration of this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator