Fair Haven Flooding 1.JPG

In this May 2019 photo, Fair Haven residents living along the shoreline of Little Sodus Bay are concerned about the continued rise in lake levels. Cayuga County officials have declared a state of emergency for the area.

The state's plan to invest up to $300 million to bolster infrastructure along Lake Ontario will include help for residents whose homes have been damaged by flooding. 

The Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative announced up to $20 million will be available through the state Department of Housing and Community Renewal's Residential Home Repair Program. 

During a radio interview Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo explained that local governments could seek funding from the state on behalf of homeowners. The commission is asking local governments to pitch projects that the funding would support. 

"So single homeowner, a single-family houseowner could go to their local town, say this is the situation, this is what happened, this is the damage," Cuomo said. "That local town then would bring that project forward." 

The funding for homeowners was a highlight of the initiative's progress update released by the governor's office Wednesday. In a letter, the panel's co-chairs — Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos and Empire State Development Chair Howard Zemsky — said two plannings have been held in each of the five regions affected by flooding. Two more meetings will be held by the end of September, the co-chairs said. 

Hundreds of project ideas have been floated during the process. State officials are examining the economic and resiliency benefits of the projects, according to the letter. 

"We are estimating awards of approximately up to $15 million for qualifying projects per county and additional funding of up to $160 million in total for regionally significant large-scale economic development and resiliency projects," Seggos and Zemsky wrote. 

While the commission continues its work to develop and support projects that would benefit the shoreline, the state aims to boost tourism along the lake and St. Lawrence River during the last full month of summer. 

There is an I LOVE NY advertising campaign — television commercials are airing across the state — and free fishing is being offered on the lake. Camping fees at state parks along the lake and river have been reduced. 

The state's response is due to the recurrence of flooding along Lake Ontario. Water levels reached a record high in June and have been slowly declining over the summer. The flooding caused damage to businesses and homes, but it has been difficult to get a cost estimate because the water levels remain high. 
It's the second time in three years there has been flooding along the lake. A federal disaster declaration was issued in 2017 after flooding caused millions in damage to shoreline communities along the lake. 
When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of the commission, he said he wants to protect communities from any future flooding that might occur while boosting the shoreline economy. Many of the municipalities along the lake rely on a robust tourism industry for tax revenue and to support local businesses. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.