Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced their call for the Army Corps of Engineers to approve two critical projects that would help New York communities devastated by Lake Ontario flooding. Their call comes as the International Joint Commission announced this week that water levels on Lake Ontario have exceeded record levels.
Specifically, the senators are calling for the Army Corps to initiate a new project for the Town of Greece that would construct emergency flood protection for Edgemere Drive. Schumer and Gillibrand are also calling on the Army Corps to approve the cost-sharing agreement for a project in Youngstown to help prevent erosion at Fort Niagara State Park. Once the cost-sharing agreement is approved, the Corps will be able to begin the feasibility study for this project to protect the seawall and historic structures at Old Fort Niagara. The senators are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with both of these mitigation projects as soon as possible.
“The severe flooding of Lake Ontario, for the second time in three years, is a situation that demands a swift and comprehensive response from all levels of government. The impacted communities just can’t afford to continue suffering from the millions in damages this far-too-frequent flooding causes, and need both immediate support and their infrastructure shored up for the long-term future,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I’m calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to both begin constructing emergency flood protection measures on Edgemere Drive in the Town of Greece immediately, and sign the pending agreement to move forward on erosion-resiliency boosting measures at Fort Niagara State Park. As the water levels continue to rise, these two essential projects can’t afford to be held up by bureaucratic red tape and delay, because the threat of further damage is just too high.”
“With Lake Ontario water still at record high levels, there is a very real threat to our shoreline communities that flooding can continue through the summer. Communities along Lake Ontario that are facing this threat cannot afford to wait for emergency help from the Army Corps,” said Senator Gillibrand. “There are currently two projects that the Army Corps has pending that would construct emergency protections for public infrastructure in the Town of Greece – which has been particularly hard-hit by the flooding this year – and for Fort Niagara State Park, and I am calling on the Army Corps to ensure that both move forward without delay. These projects will help support the efforts to make the Lake Ontario shoreline more resilient and able to withstand the threat of repeated flooding. I will continue to do everything I can to ensure our shoreline communities get the help and resources they need.”
The projects Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the Army Corps to approve are authorized under Section 14 of the Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), which allows the Army Corps to construct emergency shoreline and streambank protection works for projects under $5 million without project-level authorization from Congress. The Town of Greece, which has experienced severe and repetitive flooding this year and in 2017, has requested a CAP project to protect public infrastructure along Edgemere Drive. Additionally, the Army Corps Buffalo District is currently in the process of executing a Feasibility Cost Share Agreement with New York State for a CAP project to protect against erosion at Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown. Once this agreement is approved, the Army Corps will be able to begin the feasibility study phase of the project.
Both projects would provide critical protections as the Army Corps of Engineers moves forward with the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study to develop a plan to address flood risk for the Great Lakes region as a whole. Schumer and Gillibrand successfully passed the authorization for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study last year after flooding devastated shoreline communities in 2017.
With water levels reaching record high levels this year, the senators continued their commitment to protecting New York communities facing flooding. Last month, Schumer and Gillibrand called on FEMA to quickly approve any potential disaster declaration for Lake Ontario & St. Lawrence River Communities impacted by flooding and exceptionally high water levels. Earlier this year, Schumer and Gillibrand also called on the International Joint Commission (IJC) and International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board of Control to assess and take all actions possible to mitigate flood risks to surrounding communities, including the appropriate maximization of outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam.
The full text of Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter can be found here and below:
The Honorable R.D. James
Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works)
108 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20310-0108
Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite
Chief of Engineers
441 G Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20315-1000
Dear Assistant Secretary James and General Semonite,
We are writing to bring to your attention an urgent matter affecting my constituents who reside along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. This week, the International Joint Commission recorded that water levels in Lake Ontario exceeded the record levels, and are continuing to increase. This has resulted in severe flooding of public and private property along the shoreline for the second time since 2017. Repetitive flooding for these communities is a serious concern, and the support of the Army Corps of Engineers will be critical in the coming weeks, months and years to improve shoreline protections. In particular, there are two Continuing Authorities Program (CAP) Section 14 projects that we hope can move forward expeditiously.
First, the Town of Greece has been particularly hard-hit by flooding, and has requested a CAP Section 14 project to protect public infrastructure along Edgemere Drive. It is our understanding that this project is pending as a potential CAP New Start. Given the severe and repetitive flooding experienced by this community this year and in 2017, I urge you to include this project on the next nationwide CAP New Start list this summer. This project will provide critical protection for the community while the Army Corps moves forward with the comprehensive Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study to develop a plan to address flood risk for the region as a whole.
Second, it is our understanding that the Army Corps Buffalo District is currently in the process of executing a Feasibility Cost Share Agreement with New York State for a CAP Section 14 project to protect against erosion at Fort Niagara State Park in Youngstown, New York. We urge you to ensure that this agreement is entered into as quickly as possible this summer so that the Corps can begin the feasibility study phase of the project.
Thank you for your attention to these two urgent projects. We look forward to continuing to work with you to protect the shoreline of Lake Ontario.