Governor Directs State Parks to Implement 5 MPH Speed Limit for Recreational Vessels Operating Within 1,000 Feet of Shore
20 Sandbaggers, Over One Million Sandbags, Hundreds of Pumps, and Over 5,000 Feet of Aquadam Currently Deployed to Affected Counties
200 Members of New York National Guard on Standby for Immediate Deployment
Earlier today, Governor Cuomo declared a State of Emergency for the eight counties impacted by potential Lake Ontario flooding: Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, Oswego, St. Lawrence and Wayne. The Governor's order directs state agencies to protect State property and to assist local governments and individuals in responding to and recovering from the flooding.
The Governor also directed the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to implement a 5 mile per hour speed limit, where the Commissioner finds it appropriate, to control wakes along the Lake Ontario shoreline in the affected counties as part of the state's ongoing response to coastal flooding in the region. Beginning today, vessels operating within 1,000 feet of shore, unless otherwise directed by a County Declaration, must observe a 5 mile per hour speed limit to reduce impacts to shoreline residences and infrastructure caused by wave action and to promote safe boating. The no wake zone does not apply to communities along the St. Lawrence River.
AUDIO of today's event is available here.
PHOTOS of today's event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Well good morning. It's good to be back. I wish I could be doing some fishing and enjoying the weather, but we're not enjoying the weather. Let me acknowledge my colleagues who are here with me. First, Supervisor Tim Horanburg, who's been doing a great job. We just took another tour around, of the pond area, the pumps that are in place, what we call the aquadam, the water barriers that are in place. So I thank him very much, and the people of Newfane really owe him a debt of gratitude because he is on it and he's working very hard and he knows what he's talking about.
Niagara County OEM Manager Jonathan Schultz is with us. The New York State head of Emergency Management Michael Kopy, who you'll hear from in a moment. Division of Homeland Security Patrick Murphy. The DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, who you will hear from in a moment. Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. The Transportation Commissioner, Marie Therese Dominguez. Mayor Lawson is with us. Town of Porter Supervisor Duffy Johnston is with us. And Niagara County Legislative Chairs David Godfrey and John Syracuse are with us.
From the last time we were here and we deployed pumps and we talked about the overall situation, the lake level has actually increased beyond that. We are now looking at the very real possibility of a flood like we had in 2017. As painful as that news is to hear, it's true. The level is up, we're now just dealing with Mother Nature and the probability of either rain or wind. It's not just the water level, it's more the wave action and the wave action is driven by waves. So if the waves pick up, or if we get more rain, then we'll have another flooding situation. And we are preparing now for the reoccurrence of the 2017 flooding situation, which as people remember was devastating and caused a lot of damage and a lot of hardship for thousands of New Yorkers. We're talking about the entire shoreline of Lake Ontario. So, it's hundreds of miles of New York State property.
The only course of action, and the best course of action, is to do everything we can to be prepared before the flooding actually happens. And that's what we're doing. We're more informed than we were in 2017, so you see pumps, emergency workers who are working, the volunteer firemen have been doing a great job, the local first responders have been doing a phenomenal job. Hundreds of thousands of sandbags have been put in place and that's really a tribute to the local fire personnel and the local emergency workers who have been doing a great job.
I'm going to declare an emergency order for the effected communities. The emergency order does several things. Number one, it sets a maximum speed limit of 5 miles per hour 1,000 [feet] from shoreline. The last thing we need are boat wakes creating additional waves or aggravating waves. Localities can set the limit lower than 1,000 feet if they think they need that to protect their community. So we'll have a statewide limit, but then localities can reduce that limit as they see fit because they do know best what their local conditions are. The Supervisor just had us by Hedley boat yard and you can already see the water coming over. We already have a problem. So we'll leave it to the localities if they want to further reduce that limit. The emergency order also allows us expedited procurement. We used a product in 2017 that was quite successful—we've started deploying it now, those aquadam—the temporary dams. We're going to be acquiring more of that and installing several thousand feet in addition to what we've already installed over the next few days. The emergency order also gives us flexibility in dealing with local governments and with private property. A lot of the precautions we want to take will be on private property, installing aquadams, et cetera. So the emergency order gives us additional flexibility for that.
The main agencies involved for us are DEC and Homeland Security, and I want to thank Commissioner Murphy and Mike Kopy very much and Commissioner Basil Seggos for doing a great job. We also need the help and cooperation of local governments and homeowners. We had, after 2017, approximately 4,000 properties damaged. If you are a homeowner or a business that was damaged in 2017, prepare for a redux of the same situation. The flooding will come where the flooding came. Let's do everything we can to get ahead of it and be prepared for it. Once the flooding happens, it is too late to put precautions in place. You can't get people in there, you can't get equipment in there. So, the time to prepare is now and, depending on the forecast, we're looking at the potential flood levels as soon as this week, later in the week.
We have a number: (518) 292-2200. If homeowners are in the path of damage, contact your local government officials. Have them contact the State, we will get you what you need. We're going to have more National Guard, more equipment, more pumps, more aquadam, we have more sandbags. Anything you could need. But the time is now. Often in these emergency situations everybody hopes for the best. I hope for the best. But we have to prepare for the worst and, again, we went through this in 2017. Replay that video. If you need help, let us know now. We have the personnel, we have the equipment, but we need to know for local governments and homeowners where to help.
The only bright spot is the IJC actually has a New York member on it now, Jane Corwin. I say amen to that. In Italian we would say "finalmente"—finally. Jane Corwin will at least be a New York voice on the IJC. She's from Western New York, I worked with her when she was in the State Assembly and at least now we'll have someone arguing New York's case, because I believe New York has gotten the short end of the stick or the high level of the lake, however you want to look at it. But we need someone to fight for us and having a New Yorker on the IJC is going to help.