State Senator Chris Jacobs held his latest Great Lakes Roundtable Thursday morning at Woodlawn Beach State Park, where he was joined by elected leaders and environmental advocates to discuss issues threatening the health and quality of the region's waterways and shoreline.
Jacobs says the imminent challenge is addressing rising water levels in Lakes Erie and Ontario. Waters have risen high enough along Lake Ontario in Niagara County that, for the second time in three years, Olcott Beach will be closed for the entire summer season.
But that was just one of the topics on the table.
"Also regarding things like water treatment, the capacity of our water treatment facilities, because of these rising waters," Jacobs said.
Noting the rare warm and sunny weather happening Thursday morning at Woodlawn Beach, Jacobs added that communities are eager to open their beaches for the summer season, but concerns remain for sewer overflows caused by rain-related backups.
There was also discussion about a need for a more regional approach. Town of Evans Supervisor Mary Hosler points to activities and flooding outside her municipality which may cause problems within it.
She was asked, in light of problems along the Lake Ontario shoreline, about concerns along the Lake Erie shoreline in her community.
"We have residents that had beach. They don't have beach," Hosler said about rising lake levels. "It's very hard to get to some of our access points to our beach. It's also causing some flooding upstream, because it's pushing back into our smaller streams that are feeding into the lake. They've eroded our beaches. We have a lot of work on our beaches this year to get them even opened."
The roundtable also provided leaders with information on how to acquire funds that may help cover needed infrastructural projects. City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis says past roundtables have proven educational and has helped him secure up to eight million dollars for needs.
While the City of Tonawanda does not face many of the same threats as communities along Lakes Erie and Ontario, its city hall and a neighboring park and pavilion sit along the riverbank in a potential flood plain, Davis explained.
"We're really cognizant of the lake and the river levels, but we're really at the mercy of what Mother Nature throws at us," Davis said. "It seems like over the years, whatever things that are done to try to deter those levels from rising, Mother Nature just one-ups us."