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Veronica Volk / WXXI News/Great Lakes Today

Governor Cuomo has directed state agencies to assist local communities in Cayuga, Jefferson, Monroe, Niagara, Orleans, and Wayne counties for possible flooding issues due to rising water levels on Lake Ontario and is urging all residents in the region to prepare for flooding.  

At Cuomo's direction, sandbags have already been deployed to the region and have been filled to be ready for placement in lower elevation areas.

Alex Crichton

The rising water levels on Lake Ontario are causing serious problems for local infrastructure, property and business owners.

That's the word from Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, who spoke Friday morning at Mayer's Marine, part of it already submerged because of high water levels.

Dinolfo called on the International Joint Commission to take immediate action.

She says she has sent an official request for assistance from both state and federal elected officials.

Rising levels on Lake Ontario have prompted officials in counties near Buffalo and Rochester to declare a state of emergency.

Officials said they expect higher than normal water levels over the next few days and into the weekend -- with a possibility of flooding.

Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich met this week  with representatives of some of the towns along the Lake Ontario shoreline to talk about the impact of Plan 2014, which is the plan formulated by the International Joint Commission, involving representatives of the U.S. and Canada. That plan  allows for wider swings in lake levels.

Environmental advocates have argued that the previous plan impacted wetlands and did other damage to the environment.

Wayne County officials have declared a state of emergency on all bays and harbors in that area.

The advisory comes from Board of Supervisors Chairman Steven LeRoy and Sheriff Barry Virts who say a ‘special state of emergency’ will be in place for Sodus Bay, Port Bay, East Bay, Blind Sodus Bay, Pultneyville Harbor and Bear Creek Harbor.

That means as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, motorized boat traffic must operate at idle speed only, causing no wake on those bays and harbors.

WXXI photo

Sodus residents are trying to protect their shoreline property from potential flooding as water levels continue to rise on Lake Ontario.

Town supervisor Steve LeRoy says sandbags are being made available to homeowners so they can create a breakwall to protect their property from surges that might be created by passing boat traffic or high winds.

"If we are at flood stage, and the water is just beginning to seep up into people's lawns, and we get a 60 mile an hour north wind, it'll be devastating. And the water is continuing to rise now, so we're really in trouble."

Talk of a fictional pipeline that could carry Great Lakes water to the Southwest caused a recent uproar from folks around the lakes. But the NASA scientist who mentioned the idea says Phoenix and other desert cities aren’t coming for the Great Lakes’ water any time soon.

On a tiny beach at Erie Basin Marina in Buffalo, N.Y., Nate Drag scans the sand and driftwood. He's part of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and he helps organize beach clean ups.

 

"The closer you look, you can start seeing the plastic popping out," he says.

A new report sums up the crazy winter that brought unusually warm temperatures to the Great Lakes region -- as well as some brutal Lake Effect snowstorms.

Toronto recorded its highest February temperature -- 66 degrees -- on Feb. 23, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The following day, more records were set in Syracuse (71), Binghamton, N.Y. (70), and Erie, Pa., (77).

Veronica Volk / WXXI News

Some of the migratory songbirds that pass through the Great Lakes region are already on the move, and volunteers at the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory are preparing for them. Hundreds of species – swallows, finches, warblers and more -- visit the observatory on the shore of Lake Ontario, just west of Rochester.

Today, the volunteers are repairing large nets, about 12 feet high with very fine mesh. That’s how they catch the birds.

"When they're flying along, they kind of hit these soft nets and fall into little pockets or hammocks," says education director Andrea Patterson.

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