Upgrades include enhanced safety improvements and flood protection measures such as new shoreline stabilization and floating docks
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul joined Village of Lewiston officials in officially opening the new, multimillion-dollar waterfront on Wednesday. Improvements at the popular Lewiston Landing include new shoreline stabilization measures to protect the area from future flooding and the installation of new floating docks, a new pathway with railings, improved lighting and power stations.
“We're here to celebrate Lewiston and this magnificent waterfront; and what a gem of a community this is,” Hochul said.
Lewiston Landing is the main access point for numerous waterfront activities, fishing and boating activities. The marina is the only public site within the village that provides direct access to the Niagara River and offers recreational opportunities to residents and visitors alike, including fishing, boating, and overall enjoyment of the Niagara River.
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch said, “In 2017, our waterfront was damaged by unprecedented high-water levels. It was said that it was caused by the result of a 100-year flood. This damage destroyed our waterfront, and our leased boat slips, which caused the loss of revenue to the village for three years.
“The village realized that, to mitigate future flooding, the waterfront would have to be reconstructed and raised above the flooding level, raising the landing an additional 2 feet. We planned and began the reconstruction in 2018.
“Well, in 2019 the water levels rose again – during our reconstruction. It delayed the work on the reconstruction of the waterfront until the water receded. Because of the delay, the project took longer than anticipated to complete. The weather turned cold and it snowed, delaying the project again; so, we had to wait until this summer to complete it. It has been quite a challenge to say the least.”
The Lewiston Landing project, which was undertaken by the Village of Lewiston with assistance provided by the New York State Department of State, included important flood mitigation measures such as:
•Elevation of the shoreline and shoreline stabilization to avoid flooding during the next high-water events;
•Reconstruction of the public esplanade to facilitate access to several existing facilities along the waterfront; and
•Replacing existing boat docks with floating docks. This increases the resiliency of the waterfront by allowing recreational boating when water levels surge.
“For many people who come here – the boaters that we want to attract when we can get them from Canada once again and all along here – they bring money; they bring investments to your community. So, it is smart economic policy to clean up and fortify your waterfront – but also to make it attractive. And look how beautiful this looks,” Hochul said.
She added, “It just ties in with this overall charm that Lewiston just oozes all the time. So, I thank you for this, and I thank you for your vision to bring back this waterfront – but also … having floating docks. They're not going to go underwater this time; they're going to be able to rise up as the water levels go up. It's that simple; but they cost money and very few communities have been able to do that. That, in itself, is going to make a huge difference to protect the property, to protect the boats, and the harbor and the waterfront and the docks, for next time.”
Village of Lewiston Mayor Anne Welch speaks with Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.
High-Water Events of 2017, 2019
Much of Lewiston Landing became submerged during the storms of both 2017 and 2019, due to elevated Lake Ontario water levels and rain, which also increased the elevation of the Niagara River water. During these events, the combined effects of flooding and waves severely impacted Lewiston Landing and its already declining amenities.
“Sometimes you have treasures and gems and you think they're going to be fine. And Mother Nature has a different plan,” Hochul said. “And what we saw, because of climate change, in 2017, first of all, a 100-year event – so we're told. ‘This will only happen every 100 years,’ the unprecedented flooding that battered the shoreline of Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, destroying homes, destroying property, destroying dreams.
“And we came around, and we cleaned up; we did the best we can – like ‘OK, we're good for the next hundred years, according to all the experts, right?’ Two years later, another 100-year event. And now, the threat of climate change we realize is no longer a threat. It is the reality we're dealing with.
“So the governor, in the traditional way he governs, says, ‘I don't care how big this challenge is, we’re fighting back.’ And in May, in June, of 2019, he convened people – experts, but also our agencies were at the table. But most importantly, it was the local officials in those communities that had been hit so hard, and said, ‘You know what? We're going to be there for you. And we're not just going to build back, but we're going to build back stronger and with more resiliency.’ So the next time – maybe even in two years – when we have another hundred-year event, we'll be ready. We'll be better positioned to deal with this.
“And so, $300 million was put on the table to help the communities and the businesses and the homeowners come back. Many, many projects of incredibly different scales and scope. It all came out of the local communities giving us the ideas and working with DEC and ESD and Department of State and countless other agencies. And so, this was an opportunity for Lewiston, which had seen its beautiful waterfront just bashed.”
Funding for improvements came in large part from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. The REDI project complements the long-term partnership between the DOS Local Waterfront Revitalization Program and the Village of Lewiston, which has resulted in funding over $900,000 for improvements and revitalization efforts at Lewiston Landing – including the construction of a floating gangway and several floating dock fingers, as well as ADA-compliant access ramps to the gangway to ensure residents and visitors are able to enjoy the waterfront.
This project raised the breakwall above 252 feet and stabilized the shoreline to become resilient to the forces of future high-water events, and also installed new floating docks that will rise and fall adaptively in response to changing water levels and local river conditions.
“Thank you, Gov. Cuomo and the REDI Commission, for your partnership as we worked towards reimaging and rebuilding the Lewiston Landing,” Welch said. “Through this partnership with the state, we were able to make vital improvements to the shorelines. These improvements – including the addition of floating docks – will ensure that the landing remains open even during times of high water, allowing both local residents and visitors from across the state to continue to enjoy our beautiful waterfront.”
Niagara County Legislature Chairwoman Becky Wydysh (above) said, “We know this year, more than ever, just how important this area is to this village as we've dealt with the COVID pandemic and all of the economic fallout that has happened from that; and we've worked very hard to start rebuilding our businesses and our tourism. And we see that each and every day that we're out here. This is not just an area that residents come to enjoy, but tourists from all over.”
She added, “I certainly want to thank you, Lt. Gov. Hochul, and the governor, all of the REDI Commission, for allowing us and helping us with the funding to not just fix the damage that happened here, but really to rebuild better and bigger and stronger, so that this area is one that can be enjoyed for many, many years to come – and hopefully not see that damage again in the future.
“Mayor Welch, I know that you and your board, the village engineer, your whole team, has done an amazing job of really, again, looking to the future here. Not just about fixing what happened, but making sure that this is a sustainable area; that we won't need to put that money in again; that we can make this an even better draw; a better place for those of us who live here, and the tourists to come and enjoy each and every day.”
Village of Lewiston Engineer Michael Marino of Nussbaumer & Clarke said, “It was over a $2 million project, at the end of the day, because of a lot of the features that got added to the project, in terms of the resiliency measures and being able to deal with not only high-water conditions and rain, but wintertime. All of the utilities were designed not only to be flexible to the water heights, but also to be disconnected and drained for wintertime conditions.”
He said the project was functionally complete just after the end of the 2019 boating season. Final aesthetic touches were added this spring, and boaters with slips were able to launch once summer began.
Welch noted, “We have been awarded additional grant funds through the Department of State and hope to see additional improvements to Lewiston Landing, including a new pavilion, fish cleaning station upgrades and potentially a kayak launch by the summer 2021.”
Video of the event.
State Officials Comment
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “The Department of State was proud to work directly with the Village of Lewiston and its elected officials to build Lewiston Landing back smarter. The project will not only help protect this popular waterfront destination and the surrounding properties from future floods – we hope – and other extreme weather events, but it will also increase opportunities for residents to take full advantage of this glorious waterfront – and it does look beautiful.
“The new shoreline stabilization measures, the new floating docks and the improvement of public amenities such as the new pathway and lighting, creates a world-class destination for boaters, boosts recreation, and will spur the village’s economy. This project will benefit both the residents of Lewiston and the many visitors who will now enjoy this destination for years to come.”
Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, "The high-water events of 2017 and 2019 had devastating effects on shoreline communities, including the Village of Lewiston, where high-water levels led to the closing of the docks. Lewiston Landing is one of the most important assets to the Village of Lewiston's economy, drawing visitors from across New York state. Thanks to Gov. Cuomo and the implementation of his Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, we will be able to keep the docks open during future high-water events, thus supporting our local businesses and the tourism industry that is so important to them."
In a press release, Cuomo said, "The REDI program is a testament to what can be accomplished when state and local government work together. Through this partnership, a vision has been realized – one built on revitalization and resiliency. The additions and upgrades to Lewiston Landing will protect the area from future flooding, while boosting community usage and bolstering the local economy. REDI projects, such as the restoration of Lewiston Landing, will help ensure that people from across the state will be able to continue to visit and enjoy their favorite summer destinations."
More about the REDI Commission
In response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, Cuomo created REDI to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Five REDI regional planning committees, comprised of representatives from eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties in the REDI regions. The remaining $235 million has been allocated toward local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.
The REDI commission toured areas hard hit by flooding on Lake Ontario and worked with local communities to come up with a new vision for the shoreline from both a resiliency and economic development point of view in order to build back better and stronger for the future. They developed a package of actions – ranging from legislative changes to aid packages to executive actions – designed to withstand whatever Mother Nature has in store. Part of this plan includes ways to harden public facilities and enhance natural features such as living shorelines and sand replenishment on the Lake Ontario waterfront.
For more information on the Lewiston Landing REDI project and other REDI projects in the Niagara Region, click here.
The DOS Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure increases resilience and sustainable growth in New York communities by advancing progressive land use solutions and community-based planning and development.
For more information on programs administered by this office, go to https://www.dos.ny.gov/opd/. Follow DOS on Twitter at @NYSDOS or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NewYorkDepartmentOfState/.
GM/Managing Editor Joshua Maloni contributed to this report.
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado
Destination Niagara USA President and CEO John Percy
Lee Simonson signs a book for Hochul. (Photo by Joshua Maloni)