Governor tours Lake Ontario shoreline, where waters and worries are rising again

May 1, 2019

Hoping to avoid a repeat of the flooding which caused extensive property damage and forced an economically important beach to close two years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo joined state and local officials in Niagara County Wednesday morning to discuss the strategy for holding back the rising waters of Lake Ontario.

Cuomo was led on a tour both on land and on the water at Olcott, where flooding in 2017 forced officials to close Olcott Beach. Doing so denied many local businesses the revenues they depend on from summer visitors.

He began by looking at what is known simply as "the pond," a reservoir that serves as a catch basin. Concerns are that if Lake Ontario waters continue to rise, the basin will overflow and no longer be effective.

After a boat tour which concluded his survey of the shoreline, Cuomo explained what measures are already being implemented and what others may come. He described it as a several-prong strategy.

"We have to make sure the drainage system doesn't back up from the lake and cause flooding," he said. "We need a pumping system for the pond in this area.

"And then the pump station itself, the sewer system, needs pump capacity to be pumped to another station, so that it doesn't get flooded."

Other measures Cuomo explained include the strategic moving of earth and the use of temporary rubber dams where needed.

The governor recalled the flooding which affected this part of New York State two year ago, suggesting it is time for the state to explore long-term infrastructural solutions to address a changing climate. The so-called "once every hundred years" weather, he said, are becoming frequent.

Cuomo was also critical of the International Joint Commission, the binational body which is responsible for managing the flow of water within the Great Lakes. He says there is now "the same pattern, the same system, year after year after year." He expressed hope that New York's concerns will be better served with a New Yorker sitting on the IJC - former Assemblymember Jane Corwin - but he says that entity needs to do a better job to prevent the flooding which now ails New York's shores.

He was asked what he would want them to do in order to improve.

"That's their job. That is their job. They don't tell me how to do my job, I don't tell them how to do their job," the governor replied. "But their job is to manage the water flow. By definition, when you have flooding, they are not doing a good enough job."