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.

Julie Cataldo is strapped into a harness as she sits in her wheelchair just a few feet from the edge of the Erie Canal. A hydraulic lift hoists her from the chair and swings her out over the water.

The lift lowers her into a kayak, and its operator adjusts her seat.


Last year, 72 dams across the US were demolished; hundreds more were removed in the past ten. Most dam removals are part of an effort to restore rivers and the animals that live there. But when a dam across the St. Regis River in Upstate New York was removed late last year, the Mohawk people that live there saw it as an opportunity to reclaim the land and use it to express their culture and heritage.


This spring's heavy rain in the Lake Ontario region had quite an impact on homeowners, but it also affected the water offshore. The rainfall overwhelmed sewage systems in cities around the lake, and pushed tens of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the water.


For a lot of people and business around Lake Ontario, flooding put summer on hold. Now that the water is going down, businesses are coming back, including an amusement park on one of Toronto's harbor islands.


Despite a White House proposal to eliminate $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the House Appropriations Committee voted late Tuesday to fully fund the program through September 2018.

The vote marks an important step toward securing funding for the Great Lakes cleanup program in the federal budget for the next fiscal year.


Flooding along Lake Ontario is still causing problems in Toronto, the biggest city in Canada, particularly for the picturesque harbor islands.


The US Army Corps of Engineers predicts that water across the Great Lakes will remain high for the duration of summer, and even into the fall.

The Corps says these high levels are due to above average precipitation on the lakes. Forecasted levels on Superior, Michigan-Huron, and Erie will be the highest since the 1990s.

Lake Ontario levels will also remain high, after setting a record for highest average lake levels for the month of May. 

Communities along Lake Ontario -- ranging from Toronto to tiny Sodus Point, N.Y. -- have seen flooding for weeks.

Three massive tanks in the shape of 60-foot-tall beer cans lie on their side on a barge, as a red tugboat pushes them down the last leg of their journey along the Erie Canal.

The Genesee Beer Co. is shipping them to Rochester as part of a massive modernization project, and public relations campaign. The fermentation tanks will be used to brew millions of bottles of beer at a time and were too large to ship by truck or train.

Updated Friday, May 26, at 4:45 p.m.

The region braced for a long stretch of rain and showers -- weather that could contribute to more flooding.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for rain or a chance or showers every day through Thursday. 

And the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River board, which controls outflows from a big dam, says it be "several weeks" before the lake is significantly lower.

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.

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?

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