In the wake of two years of widespread flooding along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, U.S. Sens. Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand have called for funding toward a study to help fortify shoreline communities against future inundation and storms.
Both senators announced Tuesday that they sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging it to incorporate the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study into its work plan for the 2020 fiscal year. The study would pinpoint vulnerable natural and man-made areas along the Great Lakes and infrastructure investments to bolster their defenses against flooding, erosion and adverse weather.
When they perform the study, engineers from the Army Corps may recommend various policy, construction and natural strategies to help improve shoreline resiliency, such as building breakwaters, installing more coastal armoring or protective stone bulwark, replenishing beach sand, restoring protective barrier islands and improving design standards, according to a news release.
By incorporating the study as a priority into the Army Corps upcoming work plan, Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer, D-N.Y., say they believe it would receive the necessary federal funding.
“With the continued threat of extreme weather and high water levels, these shoreline communities are still in danger,” Sen. Gillibrand wrote in a prepared statement. “That’s why I was proud to fight for the authorization of the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, which would help the Army Corps protect communities along all the Great Lakes from future flooding.”
Performing the study, which was authorized by the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, should cost $12 million over a four-year period.
The federal government would fund 75 percent of the costs, while the eight states along the Great Lakes, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois, will foot the other 25 percent of the bill, according to the release. Each state would pay $375,000 if they each paid an equal amount.
The senators claim that based on discussions with members of the Army Corps Great Lakes Division, not funding the study would leave communities to face a greater risk of damage with only a “piecemeal approach” to resiliency against inundation and adverse weather “that is both inefficient and limited in effectiveness,” according to the release. The Army Corps created guidance after Superstorm Sandy that resulted in infrastructure improvements along the Atlantic coastline of the state, and the senators contented it should, therefore, also fund the study for the Great Lakes.
“The Army Corps has a proven track record of executing blueprints that boost shoreline resiliency and it’s about time they do so on Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes,” Sen. Schumer wrote in a prepared statement.
Widespread flooding along the lake and river due to high water levels has inundated homes, submerged docks, closed roads and eroded shores last year and in 2017. With water levels for the entire Great Lakes having remained above normal throughout the past several months, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicting they will most likely stay high for the foreseeable future, some fear the waters will wreak havoc again.
Efforts from Sens. Gillibrand and Schumer to fund a resiliency study echo Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. The $300 million initiative, also known as REDI, aims to help fund infrastructure projects in waterfront cities, towns and villages that bolster their defense against future flooding and generate economic development.
Of the $300 million the state has allocated for the REDI initiative, $235 million was allocated for municipal government infrastructure projects, $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million for business resiliency projects and $15 million for a regional dredging effort.