Ortt sends letter to DC asking for action on Lake Ontario
Republican New York State Sen. Rob Ortt is calling for the U.S. Senate to confirm U.S. International Joint Committee nominees. Likewise, GOP U.S. Rep. Chris Collins has led a letter calling on the U.S. Senate to approve President Donald Trump's nominees to the IJC, which oversees all waters between the U.S. and Canada. Currently, the IJC is “in limbo,” Collins’ camp said, because it only has two of its six commissioners in office. A quorum of four is necessary to conduct business.
Ortt was joined by 11 New York state legislators in calling for the U.S. Senate to confirm Trump’s picks. Last August, Trump nominated Jane Corwin to serve as U.S. chairwoman, alongside Robert C. Sisson and Lance V. Yohe as U.S. commissioners on the IJC. These appointments expired at the end of the last Congress, but were re-nominated by the president and are awaiting passage through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and confirmation by the Senate.
Additionally, the Canadian government is withholding its IJC appointments until the U.S. has filled its appointments.
Ortt, who authored his own letter, was joined by New York State Sens. Rich Funke, Pamela Helming, Patty Ritchie and Joseph Robach, as well as Assembly members Peter Lawrence, Mark Johns, Brian Manktelow, William Barclay, Michael Norris, Stephen Hawley and Angelo Morinello. They are calling for Trump’s appointees to be confirmed so that pre-emptive safety measures preventing the flooding of Lake Ontario may be taken.
Two years ago, properties of New York residents along Lake Ontario’s south shore were devastated by flooding due to a lack of proper water flow management. The IJC’s Plan 2014 was widely blamed.
“I call upon Senate Majority Leader McConnell to bring forth a vote on the Senate floor to confirm President Trump’s IJC appointees,” Ortt wrote. “We must give the appointees ample time to consider what precautionary steps can be taken and to implement pre-emptive safety measures to protect the homes and businesses along Lake Ontario’s south shore. We have seen the damage and devastation that can occur if Lake Ontario’s water flow is left singularly to Canadian representatives on the IJC.”
According to U.S. Army Corps data, Lake Ontario water levels are already higher than average and are currently on pace with levels seen in 2017. With the harsh winter and current high lake levels in the great lakes, concern is growing about the potential damage to the Lake Ontario shore this spring when levels could be even higher if action is not taken.
“We are again seeing an increase in water levels within Lake Ontario, which is a concern for myself, local governments, homeowners and businesses,” Collins said. “We cannot wait until our community is impacted by another flooding disaster to take action, and the IJC cannot act without these nominations moving forward in the Senate.”
Joining Collins in his letter to McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chairman James Risch and Ranking Member Bob Menendez, were U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Katko (NY-24), Fred Upton (MI-6), Mike Kelly (PA-16), Pete Stauber (MN-8) Bill Huizenga (MI-2).
"Great Lake communities, especially Lake Ontario, are now facing detrimental impacts if commissioners are not in place at the IJC to take action,” Collins said. “We cannot afford to have a repeat of 2017 when Lake Ontario reached water levels that had not been seen in decades.”
The 2017 flooding damaged homes, businesses and infrastructure. Due to more than a hundred miles of coastline damage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for eight counties on the Lake Ontario shore.