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Fair Haven Flooding 7.JPG

Flood waters continue to rise along the shoreline of Little Sodus Bay in Fair Haven.

Two years ago, U.S. Rep. John Katko blamed Plan 2014 for flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline. 

With high water levels affecting lake communities again, he repeated that stance Wednesday. 

"Our communities simply cannot sustain high water levels and flooding year after year without mitigation action," Katko, R-Camillus, said in a statement. "I have consistently demanded leadership from the (International Joint Commission) in response to the serious damage caused by Plan 2014 and will continue to call for substantive action that addresses this serious threat to our community." 

Plan 2014, which was adopted by the commission in 2016, regulates lake levels. Katko and other elected officials argue the strategy is the reason why flooding occurred along the lake in 2017 and again this year. 

In 2017, the International Joint Commission said the flooding was due to record rainfall. The commission believes heavy rainfall is the cause of high water levels this spring. 

A report released last year found that Lake Ontario flooding in 2017 was caused by extreme rainfall, not the Plan 2014 water management strategy. Despite the findings, Katko and other officials want to abolish the plan. 

Katko's latest comments come as lake levels continue to rise. As of Monday, Lake Ontario was at 248.26 feet — slightly below water levels two years ago and two feet above the historical average for this time of year. 

Cayuga County declared a state of emergency over the weekend due to the high water levels. The state has deployed hundreds of thousands of sandbags to counties along the lake to prevent flooding. 

Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile told The Citizen Tuesday that no property damage has been reported in the northern Cayuga County village. 

"People may have had time to build these sandbag walls," Basile said. He acknowledged that the village and other shoreline communities weren't prepared for the flooding two years ago. 

While there has been persistent rainfall this spring, Basile believes the high water levels could've been prevented. Gov. Andrew Cuomo shares this position and contends that the International Joint Commission should've released more water from the Moses-Saunders Dam earlier.

Records show high outflows were maintained during the winter, with the exception of a brief period in mid-January. The commission increased outflows again, and maintained the high outflows until mid-April. Outflows had to be reduced due to flooding along the St. Lawrence River. 

As of Monday, outflows were 257,400 cubic feet per second. That's on par with the historical average for this time of year. 

Some officials don't view the outflows as enough to counter rising water levels. 

Katko said the high lake levels are "devastating our shoreline communities." His district includes three counties — Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne — along Lake Ontario. 

In April, Katko urged the House Appropriations Committee to prevent federal funding from being used to administer Plan 2014. In his letter to House appropriators, he acknowledged that other factors contributed to the flooding in 2017. But he wrote that Plan 2014 "has played a clear role in escalating the threat of severe flooding that now faces our region." 

On Wednesday, Katko said the local economy, infrastructure and properties are at risk due to potential flooding. 

"I will continue to work to protect shoreline communities, residents and businesses in any way possible," he added. 

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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.

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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.