United Shoreline holds Hilton rally

By on August 7, 2017

Lake level management expert Dr. Dan Barletta explained the science behind ongoing high water levels in Lake Ontario as well as the process that led to the implementation of Plan 2014 during a rally held by United Shoreline Friday, July 28, at the Hilton High School.

Dr. Barletta is very familiar with the history of local lake level management. He served on the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study Board, which advised the International Joint Commission, and is also the director of the Lake Ontario Riparians Alliance (LORA).

Dr. Barletta warned the IJC years ago that Plan 2014 would cause devastation, flooding and massive erosion of the south shore of Lake Ontario and advised them not to implement it.

His presentation July 28 focused on the history of managing Lake Ontario water levels and what led to the current crisis.

South shore counties have been the hardest hit by operations under Plan 2014, Dr. Barletta argued.

He explained there is no mitigation or compensation under the plan; the economic analysis of the impact of Plan 2014 was based on outdated and incorrect assumptions; and that the process of developing Plan 2014 was not transparent.

“It was developed in secret … with the only input coming from environmental advocates,” Barletta said.

He noted the trigger levels, which are part of the Plan, do nothing to protect lakeshore property owners.

“The triggers will not protect from extremes,” Dr. Barletta said, “they are set too high … avoidance of extremes is difficult.”

He also discussed trends in lake levels moving forward. “Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Erie (have water levels) above average and it’s coming here next,” Dr. Barletta said. He showed a slide with predicted water levels spiking again next year.

Dr. Barletta explained the plan implemented in the 1950’s which was replaced by Plan 2014, did contain a commitment to protect property owners along the lakeshore.

“Plan 2014 betrays the commitment made when the project (Moses-Saunders Power Dam) was approved and built,” Barletta said.

Those attending the Hilton rally also heard from New York State Senator Joseph Robach, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, Monroe County Emergency Management Director Tim Kohlmeier and Parma Town Supervisor James Smith.

Senator Robach discussed the continuing availability of state funds to assist property owners as well as legislation the state has passed in regards to the flooding and erosion. He said the state has passed a provision to local governments to provide property tax rebates for reduction in assessments due to the loss of up to 20 feet in property erosion.

The state also has passed legislation protecting homeowners from gouging by contractors.

“We will keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Robach said in regards to continuing assistance for those who have suffered property damage and loss. He noted Mother Nature can be brutal, but that Plan 2014 was wrong to allow disastrous flooding on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

“Government should be doing everything it can to assist you and get through it,” Robach said.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo told residents, “I am standing with you to make sure your interests are heard and make sure what is happening this year does not get repeated again.  Plan 2014 cannot stand as is.”

She said local leaders and property owners do have the attention of state and federal officials and that she will continue to work to see that the area receives FEMA aid. Dinolfo encouraged residents to continue the work of documenting damage and effects of high water levels.

“I think the federal government has heard us loud and clear and we will continue to fight at the national level,” she said.

Parma Supervisor Jim Smith also spoke, and noted high water levels, flooding and erosion have resulted in, “a lot of infrastructure damage,” to the town.

He said the Parma Highway Department has been working to help those with leach field issues. “There is no money for sewers,” Smith said, “we can only hope.”  He said some homeowners might be able to apply for mini treatment systems available from the NYSDEC and county health department.

Smith said the Town Board will set a meeting in August for a public hearing on a local law that would provide immediate assessment relief for qualifying properties.

The next United Shoreline rally is planned for Friday, August 11 at 7 p.m. at the LA Webber High School Auditorium in Lyndonville, Orleans County.

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