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DEC announces new flood mapping tool to benefit Lake Ontario region


Thu, Mar 17th 2022 04:20 pm

USGS flood maps help increase preparedness of flood prone areas for future high-water events

√ New gauges collect lake level data in real time to assist shoreline communities

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos commemorated Flood Safety Awareness Week with the release of new flood inundation mapping for Lake Ontario, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), to assist flood-prone communities along the lake. The USGS flood inundation mapper is intended to help local officials better prepare to protect public safety and infrastructure during high-water events.

“New York state is leading the nation in advancing actions and investments to mitigate flooding fueled by climate change, particularly along Lake Ontario through the state’s Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative,” Seggos said. “To bolster these efforts, DEC recognized the need to help shoreline communities prepare for future flooding using the latest science and data to drive solutions. We partnered with USGS to collect lake level data and develop a mapping tool to generate real-time information to help municipalities better prepare to protect public safety and local infrastructure.”

The flood inundation mapper (https://fim.wim.usgs.gov/fim/) includes 321 miles of New York shoreline, and depicts estimates of inundation areas and shoreline flooding water depth by using data collected from eight new USGS lake gauges. Counties included in the flood inundation mapping project include Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego and Wayne. 

DEC supported the initiative with $420,000 from the ocean and Great Lakes line in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to provide a tool for flood preparedness, planning and response. Real-time data provided by the gauges and the mapper aim to assist municipalities and emergency managers in formulating informed emergency responses, including evacuation and road closure plans.

“The eight new gauges placed off the New York shoreline will give us much more insight into how Lake Ontario flooding will affect communities along the shore as well as inland,” said Christopher Gazoorian, the surface water specialist for the USGS New York Water Science Center. “The gauges give us information that has not existed for this region of New York.”

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray said, “Flooding is the No. 1 natural threat facing New Yorkers. Providing emergency managers and first responders with the tools and resources they need to manage this threat is critical. This tool from our partners at DEC and USGS will help shoreline communities along Lake Ontario be better prepared the next time flood waters begin to rise.”

In 2017, Lake Ontario reached a record high water level of 248.95 feet. During this time, DEC helped residents, business owners and local leaders build back faster by expediting permitting and providing on-the-ground support, issuing more than 3,000 expedited permits for emergency actions and shoreline protection measures. The record was then exceeded in 2019, when lake levels reached 249.09 feet. In response to the extended pattern of flooding, New York state established the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), committing up to $300 million to benefit communities and improve resiliency in flood-prone areas along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

DEC said, “More than 130 projects are helping to strengthen the economy, protect habitat, build storm resilience, and provide other benefits throughout the region.”

Flood Safety Awareness Week: March 14-18, 2022

DEC said, “Being prepared for a flood means taking steps before flooding occurs to reduce damage to homes and property. New Yorkers looking for flood protection resources can contact DEC and learn more about ice jams, streambank erosion, flood maps, flood insurance, and more at https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/93118.html.”

The agency developed "New York State REDI: Building Resilience in Recovery – Homeowner Program Guidance for Shoreline Management" to assist property owners with designing resilient flood and erosion protection measures that reduce the risk of future property damage and minimize impacts on natural resources. These general guidelines are designed to help homeowners identify technical and regulatory requirements, best practices, and available resources for rebuilding and maintaining erosion/flood protection measures along the shorelines of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

DEC’s Bureau of Flood Protection and Dam Safety is available to answer questions about floodplain development standards, and provide assistance with flood maps and guidance with flood insurance requirements by phone: 518-402-8185 or email: [email protected]. Contact DEC’s Bureau of Public Outreach at 518-402-8044 or [email protected] for information on shoreline stabilization techniques and best management practices for post-flood stream restoration.

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