Lake Ontario flooding

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Lake Ontario is on the decline, but that doesn’t mean the worst is over.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced it doesn't expect the water in the Great Lakes to go down too much, too soon.

Keith Kompoltowicz is the chief of the Corps' watershed hydrology branch in Detroit, Michigan.

"Currently all the lakes are on their seasonal decline," he said via phone Tuesday. "But additional records for the month of August are still likely on a few of the lakes."

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Water levels in Lake Ontario may be on the decline, but some of the damage from record-high levels remains. The shoreline in many communities is being wiped away, threatening homes and businesses.

Some who live along the lake are trying to adapt by beefing up their shorelines. Given that these events are unprecedented, Roy Widrig with New York Sea Grant said many property owners and even contractors are making mistakes that can make their situation worse.

The federal government’s congressional watchdog agency is taking a look at a controversial plan that helps adjust water levels on Lake Ontario.

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

New York State will add relief to homeowners to a program meant to rebuild and recover from record high water levels along the Lake Ontario shoreline this year.

Local governments and businesses have already submitted applications for part of the $300 million Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, also known as REDI. Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow said his city’s application focuses on raising parts of the Wright's Landing Marina, as well as other improvements to the marina and the International Pier.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A bipartisan group of representatives from New York is trying to pass legislation that would fund a study that could help states address the issue of rising water levels in the Great Lakes. 

The proposed Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study would be a collaboration between federal agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA and the eight states that are positioned along the five lakes. It would analyze weather patterns and lake level fluctuations.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

An environmental organization in Clayton is asking to temporarily suspend shipping on the St. Lawrence River.

In a letter to the International Joint Commission, the conservation group Save the River said it wants a shipping suspended several days a week this summer to allow more water to go through the Moses Saunders dam near Massena.

Jason Smith / WRVO News (file photo)

Since the flooding of 2017, the International Joint Commission has been criticized for mismanagement of Lake Ontario.

Now, in response to some of those criticisms, the IJC is adding two new seats to the International Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River Board, which regulates the outflows of Lake Ontario.

"The idea here is to make sure that people who live along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, make sure that they have a voice," said Kevin Bunch is a communications specialist with the IJC.

Courtesy of St. Lawrence University's D.P. Church Collection / MSS 057, Special Collections, SLU Libraries

Flooding on Lake Ontario broke records this year. A lot of shoreline residents say they’ve never seen water levels anywhere near this year's, but in fact Lake Ontario has flooded many times before.

Records show a handful of years when water levels came within inches of where they are today.

Dwight Church went by the nickname Dippy. He was born in Canton in 1861 and worked as a photographer. Eventually Church bought his own plane and took pictures from the sky.

He flew all across the North Country.

Tom Hart / North Sandy Pond Resiliency Project

The record-high water levels in Lake Ontario this year are not just flooding shoreline communities, they're also permanently changing the landscape. The higher waves are accelerating erosion along New York's shoreline, threatening property owners and the environment.

For lakeshore property owners, there’s no quick fix to the high water levels, even though the organization that regulates those levels will continue with record outflows from Lake Ontario.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said the current outflow measures will help provide both immediate and long-term relief to all affected upstream shoreline residents and property owners.

Bryce Carmichael, U.S. secretary for the board, said the board has deliberated several outflow strategies.

Payne Horning / WRVO News (file photo)

Many homeowners along Lake Ontario acknowledge that they took the risk of potential flooding when they built or moved into their properties on the shoreline, but the record-high levels from 2017 and 2019 are not something anyone prepared for. Even those who are trying to adjust to these new levels are struggling to stay above water.

In Pulaski these days, the rules for approaching the homes on Rainbow Shores Road are the same whether you're coming by boat or car, go slow so you don't leave a wake.

WRVO News File Photo

As high water continues to cause damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline, members of the International Joint Commission, the U.S./Canadian organization that helps control water levels, are at times defending Plan 2014, that many blame for high water. But they are also open to the idea that some tweaks to the plan could mitigate the flooding in the future.  

The debate raging along the lakefront essentially comes down to this. Is devastating flooding in two of the last three years the result of near record amounts of rainfall? Or is it caused by Plan 2014?

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

The Oswego Common Council unanimously passed a resolution at its meeting this week calling on the International Joint Commission (IJC), the international body that helps regulate Lake Ontario's levels, to suspend Plan 2014. It's the water management plan implemented three years ago that calls for higher lake levels. Those who live along the shoreline blame it for the record water levels seen this year and in 2017.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Among those struggling with record high lake levels and rain along the southern shore of Lake Ontario this year, are those who make their living from water tourism. Businesses that line Little Sodus Bay are having the same problems this year as they had in 2017, the last time the lake level was this high.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News (file photo)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) toured flood ravaged portions of Lake Ontario Monday, and he’s presenting a three-tiered plan to deal with the record high water levels.

Standing just a few feet from puddles, piled-up sandbags and flooded docks at a marina in the Cayuga County village of Fair Haven, Schumer spoke to worried lake residents.

“If you look at the marina we’re standing in, you see the devastation. And things are particularly dire here in Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay, because some of the critical infrastructure has collapsed," Schumer said.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

A coalition of New York property owners plans to sue the International Joint Commission (IJC), the international body that regulates water levels on Lake Ontario.

At the first meeting of the newly formed Lake Ontario Landowners Association, a crowd of more than 100 packed into a restaurant in Pulaski and cheered on the founder Jim Shea as he railed against the IJC and its board members.

Emily Russell / NCPR

The commission that manages water levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River is calling an emergency meeting to review its current management plan.

The International Joint Commission is a binational U.S.-Canada agency that oversees management of water levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

The IJC put a new management plan, Plan 2014, in place three years ago. Two out of those three years have brought severe flooding and millions of dollars in damage to the region.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

As Lake Ontario lingers at record highs, public outcry against the group that manages lake levels continues to rise.

Barbara Hasenauer lives on Edgemere Drive in Greece. While picking up sandbags to protect her property from the incessant flooding, she said it’s something she shouldn’t have to do.

"I’m very angry about it," she said. "They can do something, but they don’t. And I don’t mean the people in Greece -- they’ve been great -- but it’s the IJC."

The IJC, or International Joint Commission, is the bi-national group that oversees Great Lakes Management.

In response to record high water levels, the IJC's International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board is letting the maximum amount of water out of the lake that has ever been recorded.

Frank Bevaqua, the public information officer at the IJC, says this increase is possible because the water is above its high water trigger level specified under the lake management plan, and because downstream conditions have improved. Less water is flowing from the Ottawa River into the Upper Saint Lawrence.

There is word that the board of the International Joint Commission, the U.S. – Canadian agency that manages the waters shared by the two countries, may hold an emergency board meeting on Wednesday, to look at issues involving recent shoreline flooding.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a number of state agency officials were in Rochester on Monday to kick off a new commission which will work to toughen the infrastructure along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

The Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, commission is part of the state’s response to the flooding that has hit the south shore of the lake this year, just two years after the last wave of floods that damages homes and other properties.

Cuomo said a number of state agencies will be involved.

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a letter to the International Joint Commission on Saturday demanding immediate action in response to the ongoing flooding issues along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

The IJC is the U.S. – Canadian body that can help regulate lake levels by affecting the amount of water flowing out of Lake Ontario through a dam on the St. Lawrence Seaway.

WRVO News (file photo)

Officials who help regulate the level of Lake Ontario are pointing to some hopeful signs in the effort to deal with the ongoing flooding issues along the lake shore.

The level of Lake Ontario is still at a record, hovering at around 249 feet. But officials with the International Lake Ontario-Saint Lawrence River Board say that water levels have started to stabilize.

Keith Koralewski, an official with the board and with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that less rain has helped, and with the forecast for drier, warmer weather later this week, it should help even more.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Wright's Landing marina in Oswego remains closed due to flooding from record high water levels in Lake Ontario, which is likely to increase in the coming weeks. Officials cited safety concerns as the reason for the closure.

Mike Storms of Oswego was checking on his boat at the marina Monday. He said the flooding has been quite a nuisance.

“Half the parking lot is underwater," Storms said. "You got makeshift bridges to the boat launches and every individual dock."

Even though the marina is closed, charter and fishing boats can go in and out on their own accord.

Jason Smith / WRVO News

People who live along the south shore of Lake Ontario are still contending with flooding threats, particularly when the wind comes from a northerly direction, but experts say there may be some hopeful signs as we head into the summer.

As of Monday, the Lake Ontario level was at 249.02 feet, exceeding the record of 248.95 feet that was set in 2017.

Despite the high water, Sodus Point Mayor Dave McDowell says the village is in good shape for the season.

"We were a lot more prepared this year."

McDowell says they learned a lot from 2017 and have been preparing for potential flooding since January.

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

New Commissioners with the International Joint Commission visited the Rochester and Buffalo areas Tuesday to see some of the flooding caused by high water along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Laura Jacket lives in North Greece, right on the water, and all year she’s been watching the lake climb slowly higher.

"If you go up right now up to Edgemere Drive and Long Pond and Lowden, you’ll cry if you care about it at all. Because the road is shut down and the water is coming through people’s houses and it’s up to my house now on North Drive."

WRVO News (file photo)

OLCOTT, N.Y. (AP) — New York officials have declared a state of emergency for the counties along Lake Ontario as water levels continue to rise.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed state agencies to assist local governments and residents in responding to potential flooding in the coming days and weeks. Rising lake waters caused extensive damage in 2017, and work crews are fortifying flood-prone areas with barriers to avoid a repeat.

A state of emergency has been declared in eight counties: Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne.

The International Joint Commission, the joint U.S.-Canadian body that helps determine regulatory decisions about the Great Lakes, has a quorum again. That’s something the agency has not had due to vacancies since late last year.

Senator Chuck Schumer says that the U.S. Senate has voted to confirm three new members of the International Joint Commission. That is the joint U.S.- Canadian regulating body that can have some impact on Lake Ontario levels.

Schumer, a New York Democrat and the Senate Minority Leader, says that the Senate has confirmed former Republican Assembly member Jane Corwin, who will be the U.S. chairwoman of the IJC, as well as nominees Robert Sisson and Lance Yohe.