Flooding will only get worse along Lake Ontario and area bays
With water levels continuing to rise on Lake Ontario, and no immediate relief in sight, towns along the shoreline in Wayne County are banding together to help each other prepare for potentially severe flooding and erosion damage.
Two sandbag machines have been delivered to the county, one in Sodus Point and another most recently in Williamson. Williamson and Ontario have agreed to team up and combine their resources for the filling of sandbags.
“Each of us provides a person to run the equipment, and the sheriff is gracious enough to provide us with county inmates who fill the sandbags,” Williamson town supervisor Tony Verno said. “We’re filling them for the town of Williamson, town of Ontario, and we’re also supplying the towns of Huron and Wolcott.”
Sodus town supervisor Steve LeRoy said on Thursday that the Wayne County Highway Department has been very cooperative throughout this process by sending a flatbed truck and driver to deliver sandbags from Williamson and Sodus Point to Huron and Wolcott.
In Huron, town supervisor Laurie Crane noted that there are also empty sandbags available at the town highway barn for people to come fill themselves anytime of day.
Crane acknowledged that the town highway department has been working all week to try to limit erosion damage to the road at the end of Dutch Street and at Third Creek where she noted the water has reached the same level as the road.
The village of Sodus Point continues to face the biggest potential for severe flooding and damage. Mayor Chris Tertinek explained that Greig Street, east of Maiden Lane, is badly flooded already.
Tertinek said that the village has a couple of manhole covers that have gone from being 15 feet away from the bank of the lake to four feet away, and they’ve added 2,000-pound concrete blocks near those to stop that situation from worsening and causing raw sewage to back up into the lake.
“Our sewer plant is working pretty hard, and as far as the flow is concerned, it’s getting up there to near-capacity,” Tertinek said. “What happens with all of the rain and so forth, a lot of people have their sump pumps connected to the sewer line, which they’re not supposed to do, and they’re pumping into the sewer line.”
On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a State of Emergency for the south shore of Lake Ontario and asked the International Joint Commission to lower the levels by releasing water through the Moses-Saunders Dam, which they declined to do. Cuomo said he would appeal the IJC’s decision.
Also on Tuesday, the IJC released a statement that said they are monitoring the system and will actively manage the outflows to help balance the high levels. In the release, the IJC acknowledged the flooding and erosion that’s happening along the shoreline but attributed it to an unusually wet spring.
“Though it has been nearly 25 years since water levels have been this high (since 1993), higher levels on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have occurred several times in the past and will occur again in the future,” the statement said. “These high water levels are a result of exceptionally wet conditions and high water supplies, and would have occurred under any regulation plan.”
LeRoy and Crane aren’t buying the IJC’s explanation that Plan 2014 isn’t causing the high levels though. Both of them said that they’ve dealt with wet conditions before and that this will be a never-ending story every year as long as the plan is in effect.
On Thursday, LeRoy, Verno and Tertinek met with a group in Sodus Point which included State Senator Pam Helming, three representatives from the state and one representative from the DEC. They surveyed some of the damage and then met afterwards to discuss the situation.
LeRoy said that the state offered to help as much as they could and he thanked them for coming because he said the county can use all of the help they can get. As far as LeRoy is concerned, there’s only one solution.
“The help is greatly appreciated, but what I’m asking for is that Governor Cuomo come take a good look at the damage that’s already been sustained here and that he sides with us in trying to get Plan 2014 repealed because this going to be an ongoing thing for years to come,” LeRoy said.
“We can’t keep fighting this back, we have to stop it. “We’ll continue to fight but I feel awfully sorry for the residents who’ve had to put up with this because it didn’t have to be. This was a manmade problem and shame on the IJC for creating this problem.”