Veronica Volk

Great Lakes Today Reporter/Producer

Veronica Volk is the Great Lakes Reporter/Producer for WXXI News, exploring environmental and economic issues, water, and wildlife throughout the region for radio, television, and the web.

Previously, she worked general assignment for the newsroom, covering everything from medical marijuana dispensaries to the photonics industry. She is currently producing and co-hosting a true-crime podcast called Finding Tammy Jo with Gary Craig of the Democrat and Chronicle.

Veronica got her start as an enterprise reporter in the Bronx for WFUV Public Radio, and later became the senior producer of their weekly public affairs show Cityscape. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University and is originally from the Jersey Shore, which is nothing like how it is portrayed on MTV.

No, according to Frank Sciremammano.

Sciremammano isn't an apologist for the new plan that regulates lake levels. He acknowledges that it could contribute to problems in the future. But he attributes this spring's flooding to record rainfall -- and some moves made this winter to manage ice.

Updated Tuesday, May 23, at 9 a.m.

New York State is offering millions of dollars in flood aid along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said $10 million will be available to localities that need help to repair roads, sewers, flood walls and other infrastructure.

State Sen. Robert Ortt, whose district includes the shorelines of Niagara and Orleans Counties, welcomed the governor's announcement and said lawmakers were set to act this week on a bill providing help to private property owners.

"This bill would set aside relief funding for private property owners, small businesses, farms as well as not-for-profits who are impacted by these lake levels, who suffered damage and who otherwise are not covered under FEMA, state emergency relief funding or their insurance," Ortt told WBFO.

The new Great Lakes Flood Recovery Grant Program would make $55 million available to those affected by flooding along Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River.

The grant program would provide up to $20 million administered through the state’s Empire State Development Corporation to help with physical flood-related damage.

Grants would provide up to $15,500 for owners of residences, $30,000 for owners of multiple dwellings, $50,000 for small businesses and farms, and $100,000 for not-for-profit corporations for damage not covered under insurance or an existing local, state, or federal program. 

Municipalities and special districts would be eligible for a total of $20 million in grants -- up to $1 million each -- for infrastructure costs not already covered under existing programs. Counties would be eligible for a total of $5 million in new grants for flood mitigation or flood control projects.

Although heavy rains have passed, Ortt says winds continue to stir up waves in spots. He told WBFO there are many areas of concern in his district, with more serious problems in Orleans County and to the east. 

Ortt expects the negative economic impact to be felt for some time. He pointed to the example of Olcott Beach, and the recent decision by operators to cancel swimming for the entire season due to flood damage. 

"The problem is without the beach being opened, a lot of recreational fishing and recreational draw that the beach is, to the Town of Olcott and to that part of Niagara County, those shops and those restaurants are probably going to see a decline," he said.

Meanwhile, Montreal and Ottawa are also providing financial advice for residents affected by the flooding. Cleanup efforts continue in those cities, with extra trash removal schedules and special sandbag collections.

Wednesday, May 17 

Finally, some good news for towns that been flooded for weeks by high waters in Lake Ontario.

The lake-wide average water level has remained at 75.85 m for two days in a row, says the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which controls a huge dam downstream.

Here's the bi-national board's assessment: "Does this mean we've reached its peak? Likely not, but we appear to be close now. If no significant rainfall is received, it now appears that it may rise perhaps another centimetre or two, but should then start to soon decline slowly."

The board cautioned that lake levels will remain high for weeks: "It's very important to note that another big rainfall could bring an even higher peak in days or even weeks to come. But the good news is that it appears to be close to its initial peak."

So far, the weather is cooperating. The region may see some thunderstorms Wednesday and Sunday,  the National Weather Service says. But there's no sign of the heavy, extended rains that swelled the lake in April and early May.

As the region continues to deal with flooding, one community on the lake's southern shore is calling for legal action.

Officials in hard-hit Sodus Point want to halt a new bi-national lake management plan, saying it has harmed residents and businesses, the Finger Lakes Times reported.

Monday night, the village board asked Wayne County to seek an injunction against Plan 2014, which many residents and officials blame for the flooding. A board resolution called for “an injunction against the continued implementation of Plan 2014” and that the International Joint Commission revert to the previous lake management plan.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the flooding has been caused by heavy spring rains. The IJC, a bi-national organization, says the plan that took effect in January may have added only an inch or two to the lake level. 

Tuesday, May 16

A huge hydroelectric dam that regulates the level of Lake Ontario continues to increase outflows.

But officials don't expect the lake to drop below flood levels for some time.

Flooding continues for a second week along Lake Ontario and there’s no end in sight. Many residents and New York’s governor say the solution lies with a huge dam that straddles the U.S- Canada border. But the reality is not so simple.

Veronica Volk

Along Lake Ontario, communities are still battling flood waters.

A big dam nearby has started letting more water out of the lake and into the lower St. Lawrence River. But that doesn't mean lakefront property owners will see immediate results.

Due to heavy rains, Lake Ontario is overflowing its banks. Some New Yorkers want to lower the lake level by releasing water from a dam downstream.

But the International Joint Commission, which controls the dam, says that will bring more flooding to Montreal.

As heavy rains continued along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, residents and government officials are growing concerned about waves that are eroding lakefront properties. They're also worried about damage to local utilities.

Lake Ontario is 20 inches higher than normal, and New York towns along the south shore are filling sandbags and making other flood preparations.

In Port Bay, the high water has already damaged the town’s protective barrier beach. Now, residents are scrambling for ways to hold back the lake’s waters.

Alex Crichton

Lake Ontario is nearly a foot and a half higher than is usual for this time of year, and New Yorkers living on the south shore are anxiously watching the water continue to rise.

Near Rochester, the village of Sodus Point is providing sandbags to homeowners.

On a tiny beach at Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo, N.Y., Nate Drag scans the sand and driftwood. He's part of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and he helps organize beach clean ups.
 "The closer you look, you can start seeing the plastic popping out," he says.

The International Joint Commission, the bi-national group that helps to oversee the Great Lakes, held two public meetings in Buffalo on Tuesday – and more than 200 people showed up to share their concerns.

Second of two parts

Unstable ice has been a factor in the deaths of more than 30 people across the northeast and Great Lakes region this winter. One of those tragedies took place last month on Conesus Lake, N.Y. 

A little house on the shore of Lake Ontario is gaining national attention.

After being pummeled with water, cold air and high winds, portions of the house that face the lake are  covered in thick layers of ice.

Veronica Volk

Jon Gee of Environment and Climate Change Canada stands on a platform overlooking a part of the Hamilton, Ontario, harbor called Randle Reef. It's one of the most polluted sites on Canada’s side of the Great Lakes. 

Lakes are often portrayed as calm and serene, but Dave Sanford knows better. He's based in London, Ontario, and grew up about a half-hour from Lake Erie. He's been a professional photographer for 20 years, and uses his images to reveal a more ominous and eerie side of the Great Lakes.

For the first time in over 50 years, the U.S. and Canada are changing the way they regulate water levels on Lake Ontario. It’s an attempt to meet the changing needs of people who use the lake – from the shipping industry to environmentalists.

But homeowners fear the change may mean more flooding.

Alliance for the Great Lakes

A new study from Rochester Institute of Technology tracks how much plastic is getting into the Great Lakes, and where it's going. Spoiler alert: It's a lot -- and it's in all five lakes. 

A graduate student is catching attention on social media for some spreading some fish-themed holiday cheer.

Katherine O'Reilly recently came up with a way to share her love of marine life -- and puns -- on Twitter by creating the hashtag #25DaysofFishmas.

Congress' approval of a spending bill will renew funding for a program that aids Great Lakes waters and surrounding lands.

Officials in the United States and Canada have approved a plan to allow the level of Lake Ontario to fluctuate more -- a change that has been opposed by some residents. 

The big, strong Chinook salmon is a favorite of anglers on the Great Lakes. But New York and Michigan are reducing the number of Chinook they stock in the lakes and some are worried it could hurt the region's sport fishing economy.

Michael Keene is author of the book, The Psychic Highway: How the Erie Canal Changed America. He describes how this sprawling transportation system changed the world, not just by transporting goods and people, but also ideas.

Michael Keene is author of the book, The Psychic Highway: How the Erie Canal Changed America. He describes how this sprawling transportation system changed the world, not just by transporting goods and people, but also ideas.

With so much written about the Erie Canal already, what made you decide to write this book?

Advocates for the Great Lakes are watching the presidential election and hoping the next U.S. president will continue to prioritize restoration across the region.


A program to fund restoration and remediation projects in the Great Lakes region has an uncertain future.

A cove on the South Shore of Lake Ontario near Rochester, New York called Buck Pond is undergoing a transformation.

Plastic debris is pervasive in the waters that feed the Great Lakes, according to a new study published by the United States Geological Survey.



Veronica Volk

Some of the migratory songbirds that pass through the Great Lakes region are already on the move, and volunteers at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory are preparing for them.

Jim Kennard

Rochester-based explorers say they have located the Washington, a sloop that sank more than 200 years ago off the coast of Oswego, N.Y.

Paul Skawinski, University of Wisconsin

There are lots of invasive species vying for the public’s attention -- especially in the Great Lakes -- so researchers trying to raise awareness about a tiny aquatic animal called the spiny water flea have to get creative.


Wedged between Fletcher Street and the waterfront of Alpena, Mich., is a long row of warehouses. It used to be a paper mill, but these days it's home to Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Jim Kennard

A schooner that sank off the shores of New York in Lake Ontario almost a century and a half ago has been discovered.

Underwater explorer Jim Kennard says he and his colleagues Roger Pawlowski and Roland Stevens were canvassing miles of lake bottom with a remote control video camera when it happened.

"All of a sudden you see something and the adrenaline kicks in."