FEMA tours Lake Ontario, discussing disaster relief for flood damage

Sep 17, 2019

This week, central New York Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) brought acting administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Pete Gaynor, to tour some of the flooding damage along the Lake Ontario shoreline. The purpose was to figure out how to get funding for those affected.

Katko said it starts with local authorities aggregating the extent of the damages. The state will decide if it warrants a disaster declaration. Then, it goes to the president, which if he approves it, would release funds.

“It’s highly complicated, but they’re going through that process now, and we’re really pounding the local administrators in each of the eight affected counties, to make sure that they get that money aggregated properly,” Katko said.

FEMA funding for pre-disaster mitigation was increased last year. Katko said he has also introduced legislation that would make FEMA disaster teams a permanent fixture in affected areas like the Lake Ontario shoreline, for faster, more efficient evaluations. Katko is still a critic of Plan 2014, the International Joint Commission’s regulation of outflows from Lake Ontario, which he called an utter disaster.

“There’s been flooding two out of the three years, significant flooding, and they’re not releasing water at the levels they should,” Katko said.

Some IJC members said rainfall is to blame for the high water levels. Katko said climate change is a small contributing factor. FEMA acting Administrator Pete Gaynor encouraged shoreline residents to have flood insurance, as the best way to get recovered for damages.