Cuomo issues emergency declaration for Lake Ontario funding

In this file photo from May 6, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo walks a low lying street in Olcott with, from left, Niagara County Director of Emergency Services Jonathan Schultz, Newfane Town Supervisor Timothy Horanburg and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, to talk about giving assistance for potential flooding as Lake Ontario continues to rise. Cuomo returned to Olcott on Monday where he declared a state of emergency for counties affected by flooding on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, which is forecasted to set records when it peaks in the coming weeks.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo says $300 million in funding will be available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding.

Cuomo made the announcement after meeting with the newly created Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) and more than 250 state and local officials from communities along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines in Rochester on Monday morning.

Local governments will match 15 percent for every dollar the state spends.

Cuomo has set up a website for those impacted to seek immediate help at ny.gov/programs/lake-ontario-flooding. Local government have a deadline of Labor Day to submit any projects to the REDI Commission for funding consideration.

Cuomo also deployed an additional 100 National Guard personnel for sandbagging missions in Lake Ontario communities.

At the Rochester meeting, Cuomo said the federal government needs to "pay attention and be responsive."

"The IJC is a fundamental federal creature. It is not a state creature. And this is a massive undertaking that we are about to embark on. And we need federal funding," Cuomo said. "They've been talking about an infrastructure plan in Washington since I was 17. There's been a number of infrastructure plans that have been floating around now, but we need—this is a critical infrastructure need. And we need federal funds. We're not going to wait for them because waiting for the federal government is not what New York State does."

Cuomo criticized the IJC for Plan 2014 and said their plan in 1958 was better.

"This did not happen before. And when you read the history of the IJC that goes back to the 1900s, not only were they supposed to balance, they were responsible for the mitigation of the water and potential damage," Cuomo said.

He mentioned a conversation he had with State Sen. Rob Ortt, R—North Tonawanda, about how they both believe the IJC has legal liability for the flooding damage.

Two weeks ago, Lake Ontario broke the 2017 record for the highest recorded lake levels.

The National Weather Service has also issued a flood watch from Monday night through Tuesday afternoon along the Lake Ontario shoreline in Niagara and Orleans counties.

Officials say the combination of record-high lake levels and moderately strong west to northwest winds will result in greater wave action and an increase in lakeshore flooding along the shoreline. The threat is especially elevated in bays, inlets and other low lying areas along the shoreline.

The International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board announced this past weekend that it will continue to increase outflows to provide relief to shoreline interests on Lake Ontario.

The board has agreed to raise flows above the regulation plan’s maximum L-Limit, considered to be the safe threshold for commercial navigation. Outflows will be increased in increments through Thursday until it reaches the maximum flow that was attained in 2017 and the maximum sustained flow on record.