‘Well-deserved shot in the arm’ for lakefront counties
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.
Alan Weir, the owner of a house in Burt along Lake Ontario, inspects shore erosion after storm in April.