As Ontario Lake levels continue to rise, Congressman Chris Collins is warning that a new round of south shore flooding and erosion is likely with harsh spring weather. Collins has continually pointed to the International Join Commission (IJC) and its Plan 2014, which was approved at the close of the Obama administration, as the culprit for continued flood concerns.
“The water levels are increasing at a rate of ½ inch per day on average and this is putting shoreline property owners and businesses at risk,” Collins said. “As I have said before, we cannot wait until our community is impacted by another flooding to take action, especially when this situation could have been prevented.”
As a result of growing flooding and erosion concerns, Collins has authored a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer imploring them to confirm new IJC commissioners. The Trump administration nominated Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to serve as the new IJC chair along with two new commissioners. These appointments are currently awaiting Senate confirmation.
“The IJC’s current management of Lake Ontario water levels continues to be disastrous for shore communities,” Collins said. “Only with new IJC commissioners can we get a new review of Plan 2014, and ultimately better management for lake waters.”
Lakeshore counties Niagara and Orleans are already contemplating states of emergency, while emergency coordinators are requesting sandbags and pumps in an attempt to preserve and protect those who will be affected.
"What will make a big deference is the winds. If we get a strong nor’easter, the waves will push the already high water to extremes; that's when the real devastation will hit. If it does, we are prepared to issue a state of emergency as we did in July of 2017," said David Godfrey, chairman of the Niagara County Legislature's community safety and security committee. "Our emergency management office and our volunteer fire companies are standing by to help our residents. We are ready to deploy sandbags, having stockpiled about 6,000 at the Newfane Highway Department garage, and will call for more as needed. The state is also ready to help fortify the shoreline, by deploying National Guard troops and equipment like a 50-foot, water-filled barrier known as an aqua dam.”
“Our residents never completely recovered and now the fear is back,” said Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman. “The county's emergency services workers and volunteer fire companies are as ready as possible for flooding after the hard lessons learned two years ago. We have already asked for 100 pallets of already-filled sandbags and will surely need more.”
"We were blindsided in 2017, but we have been working together so we're hopefully ahead of the game," Johnson added. "The state agencies are on alert. They are ready to assist our emergency managers and they know the impact we had in 2017."
A text of Collins’ letter can be found here.