Flooding inundates Olcott storm drains, beach

Dorothy O'Sullivan walks her dog Sully on a newly constructed retaining wall behind her house on McKee Street in the low-lying west end of Olcott. State transportation crews recently widened the retaining wall to protect vulnerable homes in the hamlet in the event Lake Ontario floods again.

Multiple sources are reporting that U.S. members of the International Joint Commission are calling for an emergency meeting today to call for the suspension of Plan 2014, the controversial Lake Ontario management plan that has come under fire amid record-high water.

Last night, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich posted on Facebook that he had learned, from U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, that the U.S. Commissioners are planning the meeting to call for a return to the former water management regimen, known as Plan 1958DD.

"This has always been my goal, on behalf of all of our residents that have been suffering with rising waters and property damage since its inception," Reilich wrote.

North Country Public Radio, a Canton, NY-based outlet, reported that IJC spokesman Frank Bevacqua confirmed the planned meeting. Bevacqua did not immediately return a request for comment.

The IJC's newly-appointed U.S. chairwoman Jane Corwin also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Politicians across the state, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer, have accused the IJC of mismanaging lake levels since the implementation of Plan 2014. That plan was passed in December 2016, intending to modernize lake management and benefit coastal wetlands and wildlife.

Former IJC commissioners said the plan would raise lake levels by an average of two to three inches.

But during its first year, lake levels rose to heights never seen since record-keeping began over a century ago. The record-high water of the summer of 2017 was surpassed earlier this month, when the lake reached depths of over 249 feet — about three feet above average for this time of year.

Many shoreline residents and local politicians have also cast Plan 2014 as the source of the flooding.

Collins, whose spokesperson did not immediately comment on Reilich's post, claimed the past IJC commissioners implemented Plan 2014 knowing it would devastate shoreline areas.

“Since its implementation, the Lake Ontario shoreline community has experienced severe flooding which has led to a negative impact on the local economy and a decrease in property values," Collins wrote in a statement directed at Dr. Pierre Béland, the Canadian chair of the IJC.

Béland has repeatedly defended Plan 2014 in media reports, saying no other water management plan could have averted flooding amid record-high inflows from Lake Erie.

Spokespersons for the IJC and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have also said high precipitation and inflows are the sole cause of the flooding.

"We cannot eliminate flooding when water supplies are extremely high," Bevacqua said last month. "When you dump a gallon of water into a cup, some of it is going to overflow no matter how much water was in the cup to begin with."