‘Well-de­served shot in the arm’ for lake­front coun­ties

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

con­stituents des­per­ately need this sup­port, and I thank the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for its com­mit­ment to West­ern New York.”

Wil­liam Keith McNall, R-Lock­port, chair­man of the Ni­a­gara County Leg­is­la­ture, thanked Collins for push­ing for the fed­eral aid and for fre­quently vis­it­ing the shore­line to as­sess the dam­age.

“This is great news for Ni­a­gara County and its lakeshore res­i­dents who have sus­tained se­ri­ous prop­erty dam­age along our shore­line,” McNall said.

The In­ter­na­tional Joint Com­mis­sion, or IJC, has main­tained that rainy spring weather was re­spon­si­ble for the flood­ing, but Collins has ar­gued that the com­mis­sion – which reg­u­lates wa­ter lev­els on the Great Lakes – made mat­ters far worse through a new wa­ter-man­age­ment reg­u­la­tion called Plan 2014.

“To­day’s news means that those im­pacted will have ac­cess to the wide-rang­ing dis­as­ter as­sis­tance FEMA can pro­vide, but we will con­tinue work­ing with the ad­min­is­tra­tion to make sure new IJC com­mis­sion­ers will be ap­pointed to put an end to Plan 2014,” Collins said.

Collins met with both Trump and Vice Pres­i­dent Pence to share his con­cerns about Lake On­tario’s shore­line flood­ing, the IJC and Plan 2014.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., also pushed for the dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion.

“This is a mas­sive and well-de­served shot in the arm for many lake­front coun­ties that we fought long and hard to se­cure,” Schumer said. “It will pro­vide fed­eral funds for many coun­ties hit hard by the re­lent­less lake flood­ing, but we will keep up the pres­sure un­til we se­cure the same sup­port for both Mon­roe and Cayuga coun­ties.” Gov. An­drew M. Cuomo agreed. “To­day’s dec­la­ra­tion is a good first step by the fed­eral govern­ment and it will sup­ple­ment the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars that New York has al­ready in­vested in the re­cov­ery of the Lake On­tario shore­line,” Cuomo said in a state­ment. “How­ever, there is more work to be done and we will not stop fight­ing un­til this dec­la­ra­tion is ex­panded to en­sure that Mon­roe and Cayuga coun­ties re­ceive the as­sis­tance they need and de­serve.”

And while those two coun­ties did not yet meet the fed­eral stan­dard for a dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tion, of­fi­cials from the coun­ties that qual­i­fied were thrilled with Trump’s an­nounce­ment.

“We are very pleased with the FEMA dec­la­ra­tion be­ing made,” said Or­leans County Leg­is­la­ture Chair­man E. John DeFilipps, a Repub­li­can.

“Hope­fully, this will be the last time we need a dec­la­ra­tion for these rea­sons.”

Or­leans County Leg­is­la­tor Lynne M. John­son, R-Yates, said, “We had county roads that were dam­aged, that we had to build into our 2018 bud­get.”

In Ol­cott, Ni­a­gara County-owned Krull Park Beach was closed all sum­mer be­cause al­most all of it was sub­merged by high wa­ters from the lake. The county placed some pre­cast con­crete “shore ar­mor” in the wa­ter to pro­tect the park, High­way Com­mis­sioner Dean E. Lapp II said.

In ad­di­tion, Lapp said, the county spent $220,000 in May and June on storm re­sponse, in­clud­ing a 3-foot berm to pro­tect Ol­cott’s low-ly­ing West Bluff neigh­bor­hood and to re­place a washe­d­out road in Cam­bria and a col­lapsed cul­vert in Hart­land.

Also in Ol­cott, a piece of On­tario Street was un­der­mined by ero­sion and fell into the har­bor April 18, and the stone wall along the Ol­cott Yacht Club prop­erty col­lapsed in late Septem­ber.

New­fane Su­per­vi­sor Ti­mothy R. Ho­ran­burg, who lives in Ol­cott, said the town kept pumps in the streets of Ol­cott for three months, pump­ing lake wa­ter out of the storm sew­ers to keep them from over­flow­ing or col­laps­ing.

Ho­ran­burg said he just sub­mit­ted a $62,800 re­im­burse­ment re­quest to the state govern­ment un­der terms of Cuomo’s emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion and the $45 mil­lion flood-re­lief bill that Cuomo signed in July. But Ho­ran­burg said he hopes that the FEMA money can be used to re­im­burse other costs.

For ex­am­ple, the Ol­cott and Miller Hose vol­un­teer fire com­pa­nies de­voted thou­sands of man-hours to filling sand­bags, run­ning pumps and clear­ing base­ments. Ho­ran­burg said the state would not have paid those bills, but FEMA might.

But the yacht lub may be out of luck un­less FEMA de­cides that pri­vate losses can be re­im­bursed un­der the terms of Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion. Ho­ran­burg said the yacht club was told that the lost wall would cost $160,000 to re­pair.

“Their in­sur­ance com­pany, I don’t think they’re go­ing to cover it,” Ho­ran­burg said. “They told the club they would be bet­ter off de­mol­ish­ing the build­ing and start­ing over, be­cause it’s all un­der­mined un­der­neath and has mold.”

Em­pire State Devel­op­ment has called a meet­ing for own­ers of com­mer­cial lake­front prop­erty from 4 to 6 p.m. Thurs­day in Room E116 at Ni­a­gara County Com­mu­nity Col­lege in San­born to an­swer ques­tions about state flood as­sis­tance to small busi­nesses.

At Old Fort Ni­a­gara in Youngstown, the high wa­ters ru­ined two pro­tec­tive bar­ri­ers, a break­wa­ter fac­ing north­west and a sea­wall to the east of the fort.

Robert L. Emer­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the his­toric site, said the state spent about $300,000 to re­pair both walls, af­ter Assem­bly­man Michael J. Nor­ris, RLock­port,in­ter­cede­donthe­fort’sbe­half.

“We don’t want to be here in an­other five years say­ing we need an­other $300,000 to fix this wall, be­cause this isn’t go­ing away,” Emer­son said.

Ni­a­gara County Leg­is­la­tor David E. God­frey, R-Burt, said the har­bor piers in Wil­son took a beat­ing.

“The west pier has sus­tained sig­nif­i­cant dam­age be­cause of all the de­bris that’s been ram­ming into it,” God­frey said.

“We des­per­ately need those re­im­burse­ments of the enor­mous ex­penses in­curred be­cause of the man-made dis­as­ter caused by the In­ter­na­tional Joint Com­mis­sion.”

God­frey has been among the most se­vere crit­ics of Plan 2014, which many along the lakeshore blame for this year’s high wa­ters. The com­mis­sion con­tends that the plan made lit­tle dif­fer­ence and that the main prob­lem was heavy rain.

Sharon Can­til­lon/Buf­falo News

Alan Weir, the owner of a house in Burt along Lake On­tario, in­spects shore ero­sion af­ter storm in April.

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