Lakeshore community leaders meet to prepare for future flooding

July 10, 2019 08:38 PM

GREECE, N.Y. (WHEC) — Lakeshore community leaders pored over maps and looked for their local weaknesses Wednesday, hoping to get their communities better fortified against high water levels on Lake Ontario in the future.

In the Greece town hall, officials from communities like Webster, Hilton, Irondequoit, Hamlin, and Greece met with state-contracted engineers and state administrators as part of the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI.)


“The projects will make your community more resilient,” New York Labor commissioner Roberta Reardon, a member of the REDI commission, told the gathering. “That’s a really important part of what we are doing. It’s not just what’s underwater but how can we make it more resilient in the future.“

As Lake Ontario gradually retreated from record levels, the REDI initiative was intended to fortify lakeshore communities to forestall costly damage like the devastation caused by high water in 2017. Starting in late June, REDI consultants and state development representatives began touring lakeshore towns considering areas where new infrastructure improvements could better protect important economic drivers like marinas, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as low lying municipal infrastructure.

“We got pump stations up along Lake Road,” noted Webster Town Supervisor Ronald Nesbitt. “We’ve got to look at those. We got a sewer line down there that’s not very deep. We got to look at that."

Irondequoit town supervisor David Seeley is added that how important this situation is for the area's future.

“We just wanted to make sure what we’re doing is going to have a lasting impact so we’re not coming back here in five years,” added Seeley.

During Wednesday’s meeting, some homeowners and lakeshore advocates were stunned to hear that some recommendations called for lakeshore properties and assets to be hardened to heights of 255 feet above sea level, with an extra two feet of extra leeway.  That would be dramatically higher than even the approximately 249 feet the lake reached in the spring, already a record.

“In order to harden the shoreline to 255, you’re going to have to have a huge seawall, the entire shoreline of the lakeshore all the way from Ogdensburg to Buffalo,” exclaimed Doug Dobson of the Crescent Beach Neighborhood Association in Greece.  “I’d have to go upstairs to the second floor to see the water. The wall is going to be so high to protect at 255.”  

Nesbitt agreed with Dobson, “255, that’s going to be a disaster, absolutely a disaster."

The notion of the lake potentially impacting shoreline properties that high touched off new criticism of the International Joint Commission, the U.S./Canadian body that regulates lake levels, and it’s “Plan 2014” regimen for managing the lake. Critics have said the plan’s “triggers” that bring about water releases from the lake are too broad and caused much of the flooding and havoc along the lake in 2017 and in 2019.  

State officials said whatever the cause of high water levels on the lake, heavy rains, global warming, or Plan 2014, it had become important for lakeshore communities to be ready for more high water.  

“When the water gets high again, regardless of the cause, which you know it’s going to, we are better able to handle it. There is less damage,” said Vinny Esposito with Empire State Development, a member of the  REDI commission. “Let’s not just continue to spend more money every time the high water comes so that we are replacing the things that were damaged which are going to be damaged again in the future.”

The findings of the REDI initiative were scheduled to be delivered to the state in September.


Charles Molineaux

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