Hochul inspects water levels and damage along Lake Ontario

Jun 26, 2019

Lake Ontario water levels continue to rise, affecting homes and businesses in many Western New York towns. Nowhere is this more prevalent than Wilson Harbor in Niagara County.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul surveyed the area Wednesday and met with locals to discuss further efforts to rebuild and improve the infrastructure in and around the harbor.

“We can be misled by the beautiful weather,” Hochul said. “These harbor towns have worked so hard. Two years ago they were devastated. They came back in 2018, they’re open for business. Restaurants are available. We need people to support them.”

One look off of Wilson Pier and anyone can see that the water levels are quite high. The water has overtaken much of the lower part of the pier. Hochul said things would be worse with high wind gusts. Currently, New York State is working on both short- and long-term emergency preparations.

“That’s talking about building resiliency in the infrastructure. We have waste water treatment plants that are very exposed here,” she said. “We need to spend money to upgrade them and protect them in the future.”

Hochul said we are living in a world greatly affected by climate change. She said it is the “new normal” and we need to adjust and prepare accordingly.

Lake Ontario levels are projected to stay high through 2019, regardless of rainfall, raising concerns about summer tourism along New York's lakeshore.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data puts the lake at nearly 34 inches above the June average as of Monday. That is one inch below the record set June 14.

Sackets Harbor Mayor Molly Reilly told the Syracuse Post-Standard some merchants are reporting low sales compared to this time last year. She recalled low sales two years ago when high waters made it difficult for boaters to reach the docks.

A spokesman for the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board said heavy rains and high levels at the other Great Lakes are cancelling out the water being released from the Moses-Saunders Power Dam downstream from Lake Ontario.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.