The rising water levels on Lake Ontario are causing serious problems for local infrastructure, property and business owners.
Mayor of Sodus Point Chris Tertinek, Sodus Town Supervisor Steve Leroy, Heron Town Supervisor Laurie Crane, and Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich are part of the group of Lake Ontario towns that are planning to go to Washington to lobby against recently enacted Plan 2014 that regulates water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
If Lake Ontario water levels continue to go up as experts are predicting, evacuations could result along the shoreline in coming weeks, officials said.
“Lake Ontario and Wayne County bays and harbors are reported to be at, or above flooding level (247.3 feet), ” according to a press release Wednesday from the Wayne County Sheriff’s office.
Frank Bevacqua, a spokesman for the International Joint Commission (IJC) that recently approved Plan 2014, said the new policy has had a negligible impact on the current high water situation. “Plan 2014 took effect on January 7, and it has contributed a very small amount to the situation we’re seeing now, and things would only be marginally better if the old plan were being followed; it’s just a couple of inches difference,” Bevacqua said. According to him, the main issue has been all the rain.
“The rainfall in April has been extremely high,” he said. “We’ve had 50 percent above average on the Lake Ontario basin and 150 percent above average in the Ottawa River basin which contributes to flooding on the St. Lawrence River downstream.”
Bevacqua said dramatic swings in temperatures from January through March also contributed to situations that led to the higher than usual lake levels.
But the flooding is not just because of recent rain.
Plan 2014 clearly exacerbates the situation because it not only allows for the water levels to get higher (and lower) than before, but it also extends the duration when the water levels can remain higher. A spring storm which otherwise would not be a disaster, could quickly turn the situation into one. Even if get lucky and the storms will pass us by, the daily erosion is likely to cause damage to the shoreline properties.
The ground around Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario shoreline is mostly sand which makes it next to impossible to prevent the flooding. Residents and boaters are encouraged to minimize the wave action on Sodus Bay. Shoreline residents are encouraged to protect their property with sand bags that are provided by municipalities.
Elected leaders from the lakeside communities including Monroe, Wayne, Orleans, Erie and Niagara counties are turning to President Trump and the state department for help.
“We’re going to go down to Washington and we’re going to lobby. We’re going to raise our voices on behalf of our citizens to try and get some change. We’re not going to sit back and say, ‘Okay they have made their decision, we have to accept it,” says Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich.
“We’re asking that our federal representatives take action, to immediately lower the water levels and to also provide the necessary resources so that our infrastructure, our businesses and our property owners, including our homeowners are protected along the shorelines of Lake Ontario, ” stated Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.
Hopefully, the White House will hear these calls for help.