Flood worries persist despite lower lake levels

Aug 8, 2017

Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

Lake Ontario's water level is down a foot from its peak in late May, but still more than 2 feet above normal for this time of year.

The U.S.-Canadian government body that regulates the lake levels says it will start to gradually reduce the outflow of water from the lake to the St. Lawrence River.

The International Joint Commission is trying to balance fears of more flooding on the southern shore of the lake against concerns about the hazardous conditions faced by shippers and boaters with the unprecedented outflows into the St. Lawrence in May and June.

But Greece Town supervisor Bill Reilich isn't in favor of any outflow reduction from the lake, as he says many homeowners are still dealing with flooding.

"I know of many people that have a great amount of water in their basement. Now they're dealing with mosquito infestation and the tablet you put in to kill the larvae don't work because it only works in stagnant water and they're pumping their basement."

As Fall and winter approach, Reilich's fear is that strong northeast winds will lead to severe flooding along the lakeshore.

"If we get a storm (with winds of) 25, 35 miles an hour, it doesn't matter that they've lowered it a foot. We're still going to get severe flooding. We find that once you get anything that hits 10 miles an hour out of the northeast, that's when it starts flooding and it starts overflowing our sanitary sewer system."

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement critical of the IJC's decision to reduce outflows from Lake Ontario:

"Once again, the International Joint Commission has demonstrated extreme disregard for New Yorkers by prioritizing shipping interests over the safety and security of people living along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. Water levels remain at historic highs and it is senseless to reduce outflows at this time. This decision must be immediately reversed to protect our residents, businesses and communities along the shoreline."

The water level on Lake Ontario on Friday was 247.90 feet, still 27 inches above normal for the month of August. The IJC expects the level to continue to decline this Fall.