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Lake Ontario Floods Have Cost Millions Of Dollars Of Damage To Wayne County Homes, Businesses, & Beaches; Even 3 years After The Flood The Community Is Still Struggling To Recover And Make The Repairs It Needs

Schumer Says $500M STORM Act He CoSponsored and Funded In Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Can Give Sodus Point And Other Communities The Funding They Need To Carry Out Long Overdue Fixes To Prevent Future Flooding; But FEMA Still Needs To Stand Up The Program For Communities To Access These Funds

Schumer To FEMA: It’s Time To Open The Floodgates On Economic Relief For Wayne County To Prevent The Next Flood Damage Disaster

As Wayne County and Lake Ontario communities continue to recover from the devastating floods of 2017-19, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major new push for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to stand up a new $500 million first of its kind program to prevent the next major flooding disaster. Schumer explained that in 2020, he worked with Chairman Gary Peters to pass the Safeguarding Tomorrow Through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act, which will establish revolving loan funds to provide hazard mitigation assistance to local governments to help jumpstart long overdue hazard mitigation assistance. In the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), he fought hard to secure $500 million in funding for this first of a kind program, and continues to push for additional funding in the annual government funding process. Schumer said that with extreme flooding events on the rise this new funding needs to start flowing quickly so Wayne County and Lake Ontario communities can build the safeguards they desperately needs to protect homes &businesses, accelerate local recovery efforts, and stop future flooding.

“Lake Ontario’s historic flooding has devastated Wayne County, people are still repairing the damage from 2019 and living in fear for what the next flood could bring. The $500 million in funding for the STORM Act we passed in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law can be the lifeboat our Lake Ontario communities need to weather the next disaster, but first the feds need to stand up this program so the economic relief can start to flow to Sodus Point and other Upstate communities,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why I am here to tell FEMA we need all hands on deck and they have to get this program ready to go ASAP because Wayne County can’t afford to wait any longer to begin these desperately need flood mitigation projects. I will fight with every fiber of my being to get our Lake Ontario communities all the federal support they need to fully recover and build back stronger than before to endure the next storm.”

Village of Sodus Point Mayor Dave McDowell said, “Following the 2017 and 2019 floods our Village, like many similar Lake Ontario communities, is still facing the need make repairs and complete upgrades to protect against any future flooding damages.  The STORM Act will provide a significant new funding source we need to safeguard our community, infrastructure, homeowners, and businesses from devastating flood waters.  The sooner we can access these funds the better.  That’s why I appreciate Senator Schumer’s work to not only create and fund the STORM Act, but to urge FEMA to now swiftly stand up the program.”

Specifically, the STORM Act authorizes FEMA to provide capitalization grants to states or eligible tribal governments to establish revolving loan funds to provide hazard mitigation assistance to local governments to reduce risks to disasters and natural hazards. This new FEMA program can finance projects ranging from flood-proofing water and wastewater infrastructure, to disaster recovery and flood mitigation to protect homes, communities, and small businesses. Schumer said that unlike existing FEMA grants, these low-interest loans would allow local governments to invest in resiliency and mitigation projects that reduce the effects of extreme flooding and would provide local communities the capital to invest in more resilient infrastructure. Schumer said that some the project this program could potentially boost in Wayne County would include:

  • An estimated $700k project to reinforce the vulnerable shoreline along Lake Road North in the Village, which is eroding at a drastic rate and threatening to compromise the future integrity of the residences, the White Birch campground, and a nearby wastewater infrastructure.
  • An estimated $1.5M project to stabilize the shoreline along State Route 14 which is the main egress into and out of the Village of Sodus Point. Along this path the shoreline has eroded and become dangerous. This shoreline risks the integrity of the roadway above. This project seeks to stabilize the shoreline and create a public access point to the true center of the Village of Sodus Point.
  • A $100k project to bolster the shoreline resiliency along Lakestones Drive where a number of properties are unprotected and vulnerable to high water and erosion.
  • South Shore / Sill Shore Drainage – Reconfigure the storm water system along Sill Shore and the South Shore district.  During the 2017 and 2019 floods, this drainage system has failed and has begun to flood out lower residents. The project would reconfigure the drainage in this area and prevent shoreline flooding that is impacting the residents along South Shore and Sill Shore cause by high Lake Ontario water levels.

In addition to funding the STORM Act, Schumer said that the bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks, with an investment of over $50 billion. This includes funds to protect against droughts, floods and wildfires, in addition to a major investment in weatherization. The bill is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history. For example, it includes more than $17 billion for the Corps of Engineers, including $11.6 billion for construction projects. Senator Schumer also recently secured the president’s budget request in the FY22 appropriations omnibus to kick-start the long-awaited Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, the purpose of which is to protect the economic, environmental, and social value of the Great Lakes shoreline and to make the coastline more resilient in the face of future lake levels and increased storm severity.

Schumer has a long history of fighting to increasing funding for Wayne County and Lake Ontario communities in the wake of the 2017-19 floods. Following his push he secured $4.5 million in 2020 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to finally repair and rebuild the battered Charles Point barrier beach break wall in 2021 to protect Sodus Bay and to safeguard homes on Charles Point bluff at risk of falling into Lake Ontario.  In 2017 and again in 2019 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. 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.  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 conducting and expedited review of Plan 2014 and maximizing outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is included below:

Dear Administrator Criswell:

I write today to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to swiftly implement the Safeguarding Tomorrow through Ongoing Risk Mitigation (STORM) Act funding provided in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). As the frequency and severity of weather events increases, it is vital that homeowners and communities have access to these low-interest revolving loan funds to protect homes and vital infrastructure.

As you know, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided $500 million in funding for the STORM Act for FEMA to provide capitalization grants to states and tribal governments to establish hazard mitigation state revolving loan funds. These loan funds will provide financing to assist homeowners, businesses, and communities to be more prepared for disasters and as a result reduce the loss of life and property. As a cosponsor of the STORM Act and a champion of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, I understand the importance of this funding and ask that you work diligently to immediately stand up this program to allow states to begin financing these life and cost saving projects.

FEMA has been a strong federal partner over the years and I am sincerely thankful for all that you and your staff have done. However, it is critical that FEMA expeditiously provide states these resources to establish hazard mitigation state revolving loan funds. In the midst of storm season, homeowners are already experiencing and will continue to experience flooding. Providing states with this funding will help communities in New York and across the country be better prepared to combat disasters and reduce loss of life and property.

I appreciate your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions.