04.30.19

WITH WATER LEVELS ON THE RISE AND MEMORIES OF DEVASTATING 2017 LAKE ONTARIO FLOODING FRONT AND CENTER, SCHUMER CALLS ON ARMY CORPS TO PREPARE TO ACTIVATE EMERGENCY OPERATIONS CENTER & PROVIDE ANY AND ALL SUPPORT TO MITIGATE POTENTIAL DAMAGE

In 2017, Lake Ontario Communities Were Ravaged By Intense Flooding, Leading To Millions In Damages; Today’s Already High And Still Climbing Water Levels Indicate A Major New Risk Of Floods

Schumer Today Calls On U.S. Army Corps Buffalo District To Stand At The Ready To Activate Emergency Operations Center Should Lake Ontario Water Levels Hit Flood Threshold 

Schumer To Army Corps: Lake Ontario Communities Can’t Afford A Repeat Of 2017; Stand Ready To Lend A Hand

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District to stand ready to activate its Emergency Operations Center – under Public Law 84-99 Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies – and assist Lake Ontario communities in the event that Lake Ontario water levels continue rising to flood levels. Schumer explained that, according to the USACE, Lake Ontario water levels have risen 6 inches over the last month and are forecast to rise another 11 inches as it continues to get warmer, placing residents of neighboring communities at a major risk of flooding.

Schumer said that Lake Ontario is now only a foot lower than it was this time in 2017—at 246.93 feet—the year when the lake reached as high as 248.6 feet by June, which caused severe flooding across the coastline. Therefore, Schumer urged the Army Corps Buffalo District to prepare to mobilize any and all available resources via the activation of its Emergency Operations Center, should Lake Ontario water levels continue spiking, to protect surrounding communities from any preventable flooding damage in the future.

“After experiencing devastating record flooding in 2017, Lake Ontario communities are once again being threatened by rising water levels—so it is critical for the Army Corps of Engineer to get their ducks in a row now, before flooding happens, and stand ready to help,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why today I’m calling on the Army Corps Buffalo District to prepare to activate its Emergency Operations Center should water levels rise to a dangerous extent. With the risk of future flooding rising by the day, we must have all hands on deck.”

Schumer explained that over the past 60 years Lake Ontario water levels have only been as high as they were this February during prior Februaries on five occasions and that in two of those years – 1973 and 1993 – serious flooding occurred in the spring. Schumer explained that above average precipitation, combined with seasonal snowmelt, has increased water levels in lakes, streams and rivers across the Great Lakes, including the Lake Ontario Watershed in New York. Schumer said that with the entire Great Lakes basin receiving above average precipitation (111%) over the past week and with it forecast to receive more precipitation in the coming days—particularly in Lake Ontario—flood conditions could change quickly, requiring a swift response.

Schumer has been pushing emergency preparation measures along Lake Ontario for months in this specific flooding season and for years beforehand. In March of this year, 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. Additionally, later on in March, Schumer voiced his support for the confirmation of three nominees to the IJC, to ensure the Commission was appropriately staffed to address the rising Lake Ontario water levels.

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 New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), to allow property owners, towns, villages and counties impacted by flooding to make emergency storm protection measures without going through the longer study and review permit process, like repairing or reinforcing break walls or other shorelines protection. 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.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers appears below.

Dear Lt. Col. Toth,

I write to request the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District stand ready to use its authority under Public Law 84-99 Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies to activate its Emergency Operation Center and assist Lake Ontario communities in the event that Lake Ontario water levels rise to flood levels. 

According to the USACE April 19, 2019 Weekly Great Lakes Water Level Update, Lake Ontario is 6 inches higher than one month ago and over the next 30 days, all of the Great Lakes’ water levels are projected to continue their upward seasonal rise with Lake Ontario forecast to rise 11 inches.  Lake Ontario is now at 246.93 ft, slightly below the 247.60 ft it reached at this time in 2017, the year when the Lake reached as high as 248.6 by June causing severe flooding across the Lake Ontario coastline.

In 2017 to help communities respond to the flooding I wrote to request the USACE to mobilize and provide flood protection assistance.  As a result of my request, the USACE Buffalo District declared a Declaration of Emergency on May 3, 2017 allowing the USACE to activate its Emergency Operations Center to (EOC) to assist in the flood fighting efforts by deploying technical assistance teams to impacted towns to provide guidance and aid in conducting and constructing emergency flood control measures, disseminating over 170,000 sandbags, conducting flood reconnaissance, and staffing its EOC per its P.L. 84-99 Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies authority. 

With the entire Great Lakes basin receiving above average precipitation (111%) over the past week and with it forecast to receive more precipitation in the coming days particularly in Lake Erie and Ontario, flood risk conditions could change quickly requiring a quick response.  As such as I appreciate your consideration of my request to stand ready to mobilize to join in any flood fighting response in the event that Lake Ontario water levels rise to flood levels.  

Sincerely,

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