DEC Issues Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence Flood Recovery General Permit, Expediting the Process for Shoreline Property Owners to Make Necessary Repairs and Stabilize their Properties from Flood Damage
Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Deploys Thousands of Sandbags and 221 Feet of Aquadam Directly to Niagara County, and is Making Available up to 100 Pumps for the Region to Protect Against Flooding
Governor Cuomo: "This is a very challenging situation for communities all along the lakes. It's especially problematic here in Newfane and we want to come up with a strategy and a plan that we can execute now before damage occurs to try to reduce and alleviate the problem that we anticipate. Hopefully Mother Nature comes up with a different course and the lake doesn't rise any higher, but we're already at record levels and our motto is always hope for the best but prepare for the worst."
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed State agencies to bolster efforts to safeguard communities along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River from potential flooding that could result from the lake's rising water levels. Governor Cuomo instructed the State Department of Environmental Conservation to issue a General Permit to address the potentially damaging effects of high water levels in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River due to the ongoing above average precipitation and snow melt in the Great Lakes Basin. This permit, based on an Emergency Declarationissued by the DEC commissioner, will expedite the process for shoreline property owners to quickly make necessary repairs and stabilize their properties from flood damage. High water levels are projected to continue and may cause widespread shoreline erosion, damage coastline structures and jeopardize infrastructure similar to the historic flooding that took place in the spring of 2017. Additionally, the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services has forward deployed 20,000 sandbags, one sandbagger and 221 feet of aquadam directly to Niagara County and is making available up to 100 pumps for the region to help protect against flooding.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Thank you for being here. It is my pleasure to be joined by Supervisor Horanburg, and we have John Schultz from the Niagara County Director of OEM. I am joined by Commissioner Basil Seggos, who is the Commissioner of the DEC, and Mike Kopy who is the head of the State Emergency Management operation. I want to thank all of our other colleagues for being here - the National Guard that has already done a great job preparing sandbags and a lot of equipment.
As everybody knows, the water level in Lake Erie is at an historic high and that is causing all sorts of problems. I would like to say this the first time we have dealt with this, but unfortunately it's not. In 2017, we saw record levels and we saw record flooding. We spent tens of millions of dollars in damage. Many people's homes were destroyed, businesses were destroyed. And unfortunately we are looking at the same type of situation all over again.
It's a situation that is managed by the IJC. And we have had an ongoing dialogue that is not always the most polite or happy dialogue. There is going to be a meeting with the IJC tomorrow with New York State representatives to talk about how the IJC has been managing the water. I believe that New York State has been disrespected in that process, and I believe that New York State has been asked to shoulder more pain and more damage than the surrounding jurisdictions. We are very considerate of our neighbors and we are considerate of the surrounding jurisdictions.
But this is year, after year, after year, after year, the same discussion. It's the same between a rock and a hard place where the IJC says, well there's nothing they can do because there's flooding in Canada, there's flooding in other places. But this is not a sustainable situation. It's just not. We can't go through this every year and the IJC has to figure out a better way to manage the water. Period. That is their job. I understand all the constraints but to me they are excuses and there has to be a way to manage the water flow so New Yorkers are not constantly being flooded out of their homes. So that's a matter for the IJC. And that I believe is going to be a long-term solution is getting the IJC to do a better management at their jobs. We now have New York representation on the IJC which is something we've been asking for for a long time and hopefully we get better response from the IJC and more consideration from the IJC now that there's a New Yorker.
Short term, we still have to deal with the situation that we're presented with and this is a very challenging situation for communities all along the lakes. It's especially problematic here in Newfane and we want to come up with a strategy and a plan that we can execute now before damage occurs to try to reduce and alleviate the problem that we anticipate. Hopefully Mother Nature comes up with a different course and the lake doesn't rise any higher, but we're already at record levels and our motto is always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And we know what the worst can look like in this situation. We'll have a several-pronged strategy. We've spoken with the Supervisor and we have a plan of action. We have to make sure the drainage system doesn't back up from the lake and cause flooding. We need a pumping system for the pond in this area, which actually acts as a holding basin, a catch basin. And then the pump station itself, the sewer system needs pump capacity to be pumped to another station so that doesn't get flooded.
We're also going to look at fortifying the shoreline where we can. You tend to know where the lake is going to come because it's where the lake came before. And we'll fortify the shoreline where we can with more material, more earth, and we have a product which is a rubber temporary dam that you fill with water that is about a three-foot dam that we can put in place. We've used it before, it's been effective and we have to find the right locations to put up those temporary dams that can actually help prevent damage. To the extent there are private residences that we could help. We have to reach out to those private residences and see if they want us to assist with our product.
DEC is going to issue today a general permit, which will basically pre-permit residences and businesses along the water to make the kinds of short-term repairs, emergency repairs they need to make. And I want to applaud Commissioner Seggos for his creativity there. DEC takes their regulatory role very seriously and they should. But when there's an emergency situation, people don't have time to go through a permitting process. DEC is also appreciative and responsive to that and they will be acting accordingly and the Commissioner will give more details about that in a moment if anyone is interested.
I want to applaud the Supervisor and the county officials who have been doing an extraordinary job in a very difficult situation. It seems like we just went through this in 2017. We just went through the pain and we've spent literally $100 million on rebuilding after 2017 and now it looks like we're looking at 2017 all over again, unless something changes. So I understand it's a difficult situation, but we've gone through difficult situations before and we come together and we work together and we partner together and we do the best with what we can. And we will do that once again and we're going to start now before the situation becomes critical. So again, we can alleviate the damage and we can be prepared the best we can.
Mother Nature has thrown us a curve ball and we have tended to treat these situations as episodic, isolated situations. I can't tell you how many times people have said to me, well this is a once in a one hundred year event. Yeah, once in one hundred year event happens now four or five times a year, right? This is a new weather pattern that we're dealing with. So, while we're dealing with these emergency issues, we also have to start to think about long term construction investments that we can make that prevent these situations from occurring in the future. 2017, this year, I would expect this to happen again in the future. We hope the IJC does a better job, but you had high rainfall, you had high snowpack, you had accelerated melting. We have to start to build and adjust for this new weather reality. And rather than spending $100 million rebuilding after an emergency, I'd rather spend that money building a new infrastructure with a new design so we don't have the damage in the first place. That's a larger undertaking, but it's a smarter investment for us long term and something we have to start working towards together. But again to the Supervisor, God Bless him for his public service and his knowledge of the system and his commitment to the people of his community. And again to the county officials, thank you very much for your help and your partnership.