Cuomo Announces Funding for Lake Ontario Shoreline Residents

Cuomo says rising waters along shoreline a new normal

Tom Puckett
October 23, 2019 - 1:55 pm
Categories: 

Youngstown, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo announces $300 million for shoreline communities along Lake Ontario, including $49 million for projects in Niagara and Orleans Counties. 

The money is part of the first round of funding under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. Governor Cuomo launched REDI in May to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Today's announcement marks a major milestone in the REDI effort. Identified by the communities and evaluated by state agency experts, the projects address both immediate and long-term resiliency needs, enhance economic development, protect critical infrastructure, incorporate green, natural, or nature-based features, and will help sustainably rebuild and enhance communities along the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River shorelines.

"The recent challenge of historic high water levels along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines calls for a swift and innovative response, and today I am announcing REDI projects in Niagara and Orleans counties that will create long-term sustainability for communities and businesses," Governor Cuomo said. "I directed 11 state agencies to mobilize their expertise and assess a portfolio of community-driven actions that will sustainably protect and enhance the region's infrastructure, habitats, and local economies. Working together, our Empire State experts and stakeholders came up with 20 projects in these counties that will help the region regain resiliency and economic vibrancy." 

"Communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have faced tremendous challenges in recent years. That's why we have taken aggressive action to help local governments, businesses, and homeowners with state support to improve resiliency and address the impact of flooding," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This targeted funding for projects in Niagara and Orleans counties will address infrastructure needs to ensure sustainability long-term. These critical efforts will help to combat devastation from extreme weather events, strengthen our economy, and enhance quality of life for residents."

Since record high water levels in 2017, New York State has committed more than $100 million to rebuild communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline that were devastated by flooding, only to again experience record high water levels and flooding in these same communities this year.

Five REDI regions, comprised of eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties. The remaining balance, $235 million, has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.

To identify projects, over the course of three months, REDI organized 25 stakeholder and community meetings and workshops with hundreds of local residents, convened more than 15 planning committee meetings, and directed New York State agency and engineering experts to expend thousands of hours to evaluate more than 500 projects proposed by communities. The projects comprise a range of at-risk assets, including shoreline stabilization, public health and safety, critical water and wastewater infrastructure, marinas and harbors, and land loss/value, among other priorities, with an emphasis on natural or nature-based features and green infrastructure.

For each project, multi-jurisdictional permit reviews, and any associated environmental reviews, will be needed prior to any final determination to proceed. To build resilience, reduce the risk of future property damage, and minimize habitat impacts, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has compiled general guidelines for coastal design and development projects. These guidelines include technical data, regulatory guidance, best practices, and available resources for development along the dynamic shorelines of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This comprehensive technical and permitting information to help expedite the permitting process is available on the REDI guidance webpage.

To further address the challenges posed by high water levels, in addition to the county-specific projects announced today, Governor Cuomo announced an eight-county $15 million Regional Dredging effort to sustainably maintain safe navigation channels to harbors and bays along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. These channels are critical to the vitality of recreational and commercial boating, which generate millions of dollars annually in economic activity and support more than 1,000 jobs across the region.

The effort will address the required maintenance dredging of at least 17 harbor channels used primarily for recreational boating. Dredging sediments appropriate for benecial re-use may be employed in ecosystem restoration or erosion management projects, with likely benets to habitat, water quality, and beach nourishment.    

The complete list of the 20 projects is available here. Highlighted REDI projects and estimated costs include:  

  • The $15,707,000 Olcott Harbor Project in the Town of Newfane will encircle the lower harbor with a promenade and shoreline stabilization to secure public health and safety by providing flood protection for critical sanitary sewer infrastructure and residences in the hamlet of Olcott and Newfane.  This project will support economic development through aesthetic and water access improvements. Resilience measures, including elevated shoreline treatments, one along East Harbor and the other along the West Harbor, will together protect Pump Station #6, businesses, buildings, and residences in the eastern portion of the harbor, and the town's critical sanitary sewer infrastructure, which benefits the entire area. In addition to the shoreline protection measures, the project would entail improvements to the existing pump station to mitigate erosion and other high water related damage. The project may also include raising the elevation of the east Federal Pier, which protects the harbor entrance.
  • The $3,362,000 Sunset Island West Barrier Bar Project in the Town of Wilson will include paving, raising, or otherwise reinforcing paths that protect land that might provide shoreline protections between the path and water.
  • The $2,103,000 Village of Youngstown Waterfront Project in the Town of Porter will provide protection to the waterfront to support economic development, recreation, and tourism. The project will raise existing shoreline stabilization measures and add floating docks and jetties to reduce wave action for boating activity and shoreline erosion.
  • The $1,814,000 Olcott Beach Berm Project in the Town of Newfane will redesign the beach berm to create a long-term solution to stabilize the berm and provide a flood strategy behind the berm, such as added floodway roads and/or a pump system. It will protect the west side of Olcott from wave action, as well as a town parking lot and year-round businesses and homes in the low-lying area. 
  • The $87,000 YMCA Camp Kenan Project in the Town of Somerset will provide shoreline protection measures to help maintain public access to the camp. The camp is adjacent to the shoreline, which has experienced flooding and erosion due to high water levels and wave action. The nature-based shoreline stabilization measure will protect the camp, which serves as a seasonal home away from home for hundreds of campers each year.   
  • The $2,531,000 Yates Town Park and Expansion Project in the Town of Yates will provide shoreline remediation and expansion to include NYSEG land to create resilient wildlife refuge, increase areas of protected wetlands, and enhance public access to the Lake Ontario shoreline. It will also include shoreline protection treatments on the east and west borders of the park to mitigate effects of wave action/erosion on proposed wetlands.
  • The $2,062,000 Lakeshore Road (Route 97) Project in the towns of Carlton and Kendall will seek to stabilize a bluff alongside Route 97 and improve shoreline protections for the road and buried water lines. This project includes consideration for a large-scale offshore shoal system to improve fish habitat and act as a wave break.
  • The $628,000 Lakeside Park Road East and West projects will restore and protect this roadway to ensure access for residents and emergency responders. Shoreline stabilization measures will protect the road and buried utilities.
  • The $751,000 Point Breeze Boat Launch Project in the Town of Carlton will help upgrade and increase the resiliency of this facility by replacing fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips. These improvements will help maintain this facility, which supports local economic activity and access for recreational boating.
  • The $131,000 Thompson Drive Project will address erosion of the turnaround, ensuring water access at the beach. This nature-based project will reduce erosion and protect local infrastructure while maintaining access along the route.

Click here for illustrative depictions of projects.

DEC Commissioner and REDI Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "The depth and scope of these innovative projects in Niagara and Orleans counties, and the speed with which they were developed, is exceptional. Governor Cuomo had the foresight to bring together a multitude of state and local leaders and stakeholders to nurture diverse ideas and actions that will benefit Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities and help them become stronger and more resilient."

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner, President & CEO-Designate and REDI Commission Co-Chair Eric Gertler said, "Rebuilding with greater resilience is more important than ever given the new environmental reality of increasing water levels along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The REDI Commission is working hard to ensure that communities not only recover more quickly from destructive weather events, but are stronger and better prepared for the future, unfortunate effects of climate change."

Thirty million dollars of REDI funds have been set aside for the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program, which will be administered by Empire State Development (ESD). Under the program, ESD will provide grants of up to $200,000 to eligible applicants who experienced direct physical flood-related damage due to the high-water levels from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019.  Eligible applicant types are expected to include small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, farms, homeowners' associations and owners of rental properties. Under the Program, grants will be available to reimburse up to 50 percent of an eligible applicant's capital improvement project that is designed to strengthen their business against impacts of future flooding and make their business more resilient in nature. Each project must also receive matching support from a local government totaling at least five percent of state funds to be awarded under the Program. Local contributions are expected to include, but not be limited to, certain tax exemptions offered by Industrial Development Authorities, local government waivers of the costs of ordinarily due permits and fees, and direct expenditures by local governments on project-related infrastructure. To be notified when the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program is open for applications, please complete the recently published intake form here

In addition to the projects announced today, the State Department of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR) is administering a 2019 Individual Homeowner Assistance Program that will provide residents in the impacted eight-county region up to $50,000 in state funding to help offset damages to their primary residences. The homeowner application period is open until Oct. 31, 2019, and more information about applying can be found here

HCR Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "As communities along Lake Ontario's shoreline continue to recover from the effects of devastating floods, it's vital that we make the types of investments that will bolster infrastructure for the long-term. By improving resiliency across flood prone regions, we can ensure recovery efforts for homeowners and businesses will be sustainable."

Many of the REDI projects incorporate green infrastructure or natural or nature-based features and will be designed to have no or minimal environmental impact. Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, environmentally beneficial, and resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts. While conventional stormwater infrastructure, such as piped drainage and water treatment systems, are designed to move stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental and economic benefits without destroying habitat or disrupting natural features. In addition, Governor Cuomo recently announced that in next year's State of the State address, he will introduce an aggressive nation-leading habitat restoration initiative, "Revive Mother Nature." Revive Mother Nature will support critical environmental restoration efforts, like many of the REDI projects announced today, to help make communities more resilient in the face of climate change and severe weather, while also restoring and increasing fish and wildlife habitat.

Environmental Facilities Corporation Acting President, CEO & General Counsel Maureen Coleman said, "Governor Cuomo has made New York a leader in critical water infrastructure investments. Green infrastructure provides many benefits to communities in addition to alleviating flooding: filtering pollutants, recharging aquifers, rivers and streams, restoring habitat, cooling the surrounding environment, reducing air pollution, and decreasing energy usage. Governor Cuomo's announcement today is a crucial step to making communities across the Empire State resilient in the face of climate change, and helping them prepare for a sustainable future."

Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, "New York State has always been at the forefront of leveraging the strength of local and state leaders to protect and enhance its great assets.  The projects announced today are a clear demonstration of Governor Cuomo's commitment to preserve the health and safety of New York's residents by protecting critical infrastructure along Lake Ontario. At the Department of State we continue to work closely with many of these communities to revitalize their waterfronts and reinforce their resiliency while also increasing the use of green infrastructure.  We know how important stabilizing the shore and investing in coastal assets like boat launches and docks are to local economies and to a way of life that is connected to the water. The Governor's call to action this summer was answered with strong project ideas, and will soon result in more resilient communities along the shore."

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "The projects identified are the result of a thoughtful and positive dialogue with the community. I commend Governor Cuomo for seeking out the perspective of local leaders and following up with steps that are really going to benefit these regions."

Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "Governor Cuomo is a strong advocate for Lake Ontario communities affected by flooding. His creation of the multi-agency REDI Commission has brought together expert government resources to find solutions and provide significant funding for projects that will strengthen resiliency and help protect New York State's  shoreline as we anticipate continued damage due to severe weather and climate change."

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "When Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities were suffering, Governor Cuomo took decisive action to respond to the flooding and offer funding to help fortify critical infrastructure. I've toured a number of sites since the flooding started and seen the impact on residents, businesses and infrastructure firsthand.  The State Department of Transportation stands with the impacted communities, ready to assist our state and local partners as they move toward a stronger, more sustainable future along the shoreline."

New York State Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Patrick A. Murphy said, "Despite incredible efforts by state and local partners to prepare for, and withstand, rising flood waters, they only way we can truly protect the long term health of Lake Ontario communities is by taking a holistic view of the lake and finding ways to strengthen shoreline resiliency. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and the hard work of the REDI Commission members, we not only have a plan in place to begin on this work, but have secured the funding necessary to make these projects a reality."

Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO, New York Power Authority, said, "The great Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River are vital to our state's economy. We, at NYPA, are pleased to see the Governor's investment in REDI projects in Monroe and Wayne counties that will help our shoreline communities be more resilient in this era of immense climate change."

Paul Koopman, Vice President of Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, said, "DASNY Vice President Paul G. Koopman said, "DASNY is proud to support Governor Cuomo's REDI initiative. We stand ready to help address the needs of these affected communities, helping them become more resilient in the face of an ever-changing environment."

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "The work of the REDI Commission is a great example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. The state, counties and municipalities needed to work together to help the shoreline communities and they did so in a very big way.  I was honored to be a part of this process which represents government at its best."

Senator Robert G. Ortt said, "The residents, businesses, and localities along Lake Ontario's shores continue to face crippling flood waters due to the dangerous and ill-advised implementation of Plan 2014. However, New York State has stepped up and taken the lead on assisting those who have suffered from the millions of dollars' worth of flood damage, and I am proud to have voted for this flood relief assistance funding. This $49 million will go a long way to help those that have been impacted by the flooding get back onto their feet, rebuild lost property, and fortify preventative infrastructure measures."    

Assemblymember Michael J. Norris said, "For many decades, there has been a critical need and a lot of discussion about fortifying the Olcott Harbor with a new break water wall and addressing other infrastructure deficiencies along the Southern shore of Lake Ontario. Now, with today's action by New York State of investing millions into key infrastructure and resiliency projects, which includes funding for the Olcott Harbor Project and other important points across Niagara and Orleans Counties, these communities will be ensured fortification and stability in these economic and tourism centers for decades to come. I commend Governor Cuomo for his partnership in securing this investment in rebuilding and revitalizing our shoreline infrastructure.  This is a perfect example of how government should work, with bipartisan efforts, to deliver for the hardworking taxpayers of the State of New York."

Assemblymember Angelo Morinello said, "I would like to thank Governor Cuomo and the REDI Initiative for understanding the need for this funding. It is vital that the residents & businesses along the shoreline receive as much help as they can get. This funding will not only help to pay for shoreline remediation and restoration, but it will help relieve the stress and frustration that many homeowners and businesses are going through today. I want to applaud the Governor for continuing to fight against the high water levels. We as legislators will continue to work hard to come up with even better solutions for the future of our shorelines. Thank you Governor Cuomo for understanding that the Lake Ontario shoreline is still open for business."

Assemblymember Steve Hawley said, "I am pleased to see that the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) is moving forward with a large financial commitment from the state to help homeowners, businesses and municipalities in Orleans County recover from last year's historic flooding. We've all witnessed the devastation along the lake's southern shore and the heartache it has caused for so many. But, I am confident that the REDI will accelerate the recovery process and help rebuild the shoreline through completion of this package of projects. I will continue working with state and local leaders to see that those impacted receive the help they need moving forward."

Orleans County Legislative Chair Lynne Johnson said, "Whether it's devastating flooding or severe storms, Governor Cuomo has always answered our call responding to the needs of Orleans County. Today's announcement will help our community build back stronger than ever and I thank the Governor for his continued support for our region."

Village of Wilson Mayor Arthur Lawson said, "Governor Cuomo's historic investments in the environment and in the creation of the REDI initiative are safeguarding New York's communities and our natural resources for future generations to come. New York's commitment to the environment has never been stronger and through the REDI initiative, projects are being developed and implemented that will protect our homes and businesses while protecting our shared environment."

Town of Wilson Supervisor Doyle Phillips said, "Governor Cuomo has seen first-hand our communities devastated by these record high water levels and he's met with and spoken to so many residents and business owners who have lost everything. In response, the Governor mobilized state agencies to work with us to ensure state-supported projects like those announced today help our communities become stronger and more resilient to future flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River."

Town of Newfane Supervisor Tim Horanburg said, "After two years of record high water levels, our towns and villages needed solutions to address and prevent the effects of the floodwaters that have repeatedly damaged our homes, local economy, and infrastructure. The Governor's REDI initiative took a holistic and collaborative approach by giving us opportunities to provide input and identify our priorities. Now, with this funding, we will be able to launch new projects that will benefit our residents, attract visitors, and build a stronger and more resilient community."

Town of Kendall Supervisor Tony Camaratta said, "I commend Governor Cuomo for being our advocate securing the funding that we will need to repair flood damage and to be better protected from future disasters. This investment will go far in improving our quality of life across the board, from making vulnerable areas safer to laying the foundation for economic growth."

Comments ()