Anxiety rises: Homeowners brace for rising water aggravated by high winds

May 20, 2019 11:31 PM

SODUS POINT, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Homeowners along Lake Ontario braced for rising water aggravated by high winds Monday night as the lake approached levels last seen during damaging flooding in 2017. 

"There's not much you can do," said Damian Weidmann of Sodus Point as he checked a new gravel berm covered in plastic and sandbags that stood between his house and the rising water. "You're just waiting it out at this point, hoping that it doesn't get worse, hoping that it only rises a couple of inches and is not six or nine inches, or a foot."


Gravel berms, walls of plastic-wrapped sandbags and water-filled plastic aqua dams encircled neighborhoods around Sodus Point while numerous heavy duty pumps sucked water from low spots limiting flooding on local streets to a few big puddles.

Earlier on Monday, Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne counties, which he promised would expedite the deployment of resources like the water barriers and lift red tape so homeowners could do work on their property to limit damage from possible flooding.

Cuomo vowed to take lessons from lakeshore flooding in 2017, so resources and preparation could be better targeted.

"We know where it's coming," Cuomo said. "And we know what we need to do to move it with the caveat that… some of these things are unavoidable. Just because of the force of the water etc. But you do the best you can."

Preparations inevitably included complaints about the International Joint Commission and its Plan 2014 to regulate lake levels, which lakeshore communities blamed for the floods of 2017 and blamed again for current high lake levels.

"This is all man-made," declared an exasperated Wayne DePew, whose backyard was again dominated by a plastic encased wall of sandbags and who installed three pumps to drain the crawl space under his home. "It's not global warming. It's because of 2014."

DePew pointed to the discoloration line on his boathouse left by high lake levels in 2017, a line that stood only a few inches above the current water line.

Cuomo also blasted the IJC for failing to lower lake levels months ago when more water could have been released without causing downstream flooding in parts of Canada.

"I've said to them 100 times 'I don't know why you don't release more water earlier,'" he said, 'because whatever of the inconvenience there, it can't be as bad as flooding thousands of peoples' homes. And that was 2017, thousands of peoples' homes. Even now, you've done incredible damage."

The new head of the American delegation to the IJC former Erie County Assemblywoman Jane Corwin was only confirmed last week.In a conversation with News10NBC, she said that after a critical reevaluation, now underway, some changes in lake level policy might be possible.

"We have to get together and we have to get all the commissioners together to decide what needs to happen," she said. "And we are doing that. I know it's not going to be fast enough for what's happening today in peoples' backyards and I appreciate that. And I'm sorry for that."

Any policy discussion, she said, couldn't even begin until the new American delegation and the new Canadian delegation meet. As of Monday, their first meeting still had not taken place.

"If we get six to eight-foot waves out there, they're going to be getting here," said DePew, pointing to his yard and his home. "We're going to get wet."


Charles Molineaux

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