U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today announced that following their push, the Senate Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) includes a new authorization for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study. The senators said that following the damaging flooding that impacted New York’s Lake Ontario shoreline communities last summer, causing millions of dollars in damages, there is a clear need to study how to strengthen infrastructure for the future. According to the senators, language authorizing the study is the first step in a much larger, long-term effort to protect lakefront communities from flooding. In addition, the senators vowed to work in lockstep with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to fully fund this new study to develop an infrastructure strategy for the future management of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River coast.
“The ongoing and devastating flooding that occurred all along our Lake Ontario, and to some degree Lake Erie, shorelines last year was a resounding wake-up call that we must do more – and fast – to better protect all our lakefront communities from ongoing flood threats. And the bottom line is that authorizing the Great Lakes Coastal Resilience Study in this year’s Water Resources Development Act is the first step to making this long-term effort come to fruition,” said Senator Schumer. “The Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study will help shed light on solutions and projects that can be implemented to protect communities throughout the Great Lakes. In the past, devastating waters have eroded shorelines of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River—ruining homes, businesses, and infrastructure. I fully support this study and I will keep pushing to have funding allocated towards it. Protecting Great Lakes communities from severe weather damage is a top priority of mine.”
“Our Great Lakes communities urgently need help in order to protect their shorelines against future flooding. As last year’s flooding proved, the homes, businesses, and ecosystems surrounding Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are currently vulnerable to devastating damage,” said Senator Gillibrand, who worked to secure the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study in this year’s Water Resources Development Act. “New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry about whether their shoreline protections are strong enough to withstand flooding from rising water levels or storm surge. With this provision, we are one step closer to putting the right protections in place and making sure that the damage caused by last year’s high water levels does not happen again. This study will help identify the best ways to strengthen shoreline infrastructure, and as a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I was proud to fight to include this provision in this year’s Water Resources Development Act. I will continue to work with my colleagues to make sure that this provision passes when it comes up for a vote on the Senate floor”
Specifically, the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study was developed to safeguard against these threats and is vital to protect the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline, as well as the 4.2 million people who live within two miles of the coastline. The coastline is also critical to a robust economy and tourism industry in the Great Lakes, which include 60 commercial harbors, a maritime economy valued at $17.3 billion and generating 293,000 jobs, a $14 billion Great Lakes recreation and tourism economy, and a diverse ecosystem of features such as wetlands, bluffs, dunes, beaches, and species that are either threatened or endangered.
The senators emphasized that this study is a top priority for the three Army Corps Districts (Buffalo, Chicago, and Detroit) surrounding the Great Lakes, as well as the Army Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, and this new authorization would allow for the efficient use of resources to protect the Great Lakes coastline. The senators’ announcement comes on the heels of their recent push to get the Army Corp to prioritize funding to begin the Great Lakes resiliency study in their 2018 work plan and then in the Army Corps’ FY19 budget plan.