The recently released "count the cost" survey of 379 households in New York found that the average loss per home from the flooding along Lake Ontario's shoreline in 2017 and 2019 is $95,000. And the authors of the survey say it's not just those at the top who are suffering. Half of the households who participated in the survey earn less than $125,000 and 70% of those who responded say they do not have the resources to protect against another year of flooding.
Rick Albright from the Rochester suburb of Greece said he has spent even more -- $130,000 in repairing damage to his home and investing in flood mitigation measures.
"My wife is saying that if we have to go through this another year, I want to sell," Albright said. "I mean this is our dream home, this is our house forever, but if you have to put up with this every year, every other year, it’s not a whole lot of fun living here."
It's not just retirees who are being affected. The survey found more than 30% of those along the shoreline are still working full-time and the rising water levels can threaten them in a unique way.
"Some people have lost income. There are people that can’t work during the flooding," said Sarah Delicate, president of United Shoreline Ontario, which helped produce the survey. "So, it’s not just the cost of repairing your drywall or even the cost of replacing your rock walls, which is a very expensive proposition."
United Shoreline Ontario is one of three grassroots organizations representing homeowners in New York and Canada that are working to change the way Lake Ontario is managed. She said the goal of the survey is to inform government officials about the scale of loss that homeowners are experiencing so they can be better about what she calls balancing the interests when deciding how much to water to release from Lake Ontario into the St. Lawrence River through the Moses-Saunders Dam.
"Big business like shipping does a really great job putting out their case, talking about what the loss would be to the economy if we suspended shipping for even a week -- I believe the figure is about $250 million a week," Delicate said. "There's nothing out there that talks about what it costs the local level and what we have found in the survey is that people are suffering incredible losses and it's just not even part of the conversation."
The shipping season on the St. Lawrence Seaway was delayed until April 1 this year, but Delicate said more needs to be done.
"There has to be a rebalancing and if they are going to continue to choose that shipping is going to be the winner, that we are not going to interfere with their record profits, there has got to be compensation for people on the shoreline," She said. "These profits cannot be made on the backs of homeowners."
Central New York Reps. John Katko (R-Camillus) and Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) are expected to introduce a plan Monday to make the international body that helps regulate Lake Ontario's water levels, the International Joint Commission (IJC), more accountable to these homeowners.