FAIR HAVEN — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has seen enough. 

With record flooding along Lake Ontario for the second time in three years, New York's senior senator wants the International Joint Commission to take action. He believes it will require a multi-pronged approach, with one of those points being the repeal of Plan 2014 — a controversial water management plan adopted by the commission in 2016. 

"Plan 2014 is not working," Schumer, D-N.Y., told the crowd of nearly 50 business leaders, elected officials and residents at Turtle Cove Resort & Marina Monday. 

Schumer visited Cayuga County as he aims to secure federal funds for permanent repairs to the West Barrier Bar pier in Fair Haven. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $135,000 contract last week for a temporary fix. More money is needed to fully repair the damaged sheet pile and concrete

The state of the pier, though, was an afterthought on a day when many residents — some of whom traveled from neighboring counties — wanted to tell Schumer how the Lake Ontario flooding is affecting them. 

Lake Ontario reached a record high of 249.02 feet in early June. The lake levels continued to rise and reached nearly 249.1 feet last week, according to the International Joint Commission — a bi-national panel that oversees shared boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada. 

The commission, which created the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board to administer Plan 2014, blames extremely wet weather throughout the Great Lakes Basin for the record water levels. But business and property owners along Lake Ontario aren't convinced. 

Sterling Supervisor June Smith explained there are two homes that have been condemned because they are on the verge of falling into the lake. There are nine other homes in the town located on roads that will be cut off due to high water levels. 

Brian DiBernardo, owner of Turtle Cove Resort & Marina, has several sandbags protecting his property. The marina has 16 boat slips underwater due to flooding. He said if the water levels become a perennial problem, he will need to construct a steel wall to protect the resort. That could cost as much as $200,000, he said. 

Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile said the commission should repeal Plan 2014 and replace it with the prior water regulatory plan which was in effect for nearly six decades. 

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"If they can present something better than (the 1958 plan) ... we would be glad to look at it with them," Basile continued. 

The U.S. and Canadian commissioners participated in a conference call Friday to discuss Lake Ontario flooding, according to an IJC spokesperson. However, more information about the meeting wasn't provided. 

Any action to modify or suspend Plan 2014 would require support from a majority of the six-member commission. The current and former Canadian commissioners have opposed altering the plan. 

Schumer is urging the commission to address concerns about Plan 2014. 

"They have to represent our interests here," he said. "And sometimes Canada has different interests, but we need the American interests represented. We have a good relationship with Canada, but that doesn't mean that we sit here as hundreds of shorefront properties are flooded." 

Aside from Plan 2014, Schumer said he is prepared to push for quick action on a major disaster declaration sought by the state. The state is in the process of calculating the damage, he said, before it submits its applications. 

In 2017, President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the eight counties, including Cayuga, affected by Lake Ontario flooding. If a declaration is issued again, it will make federal funds available for infrastructure repairs and to help businesses and homeowners affected by the high water levels. 

Schumer also has a long-term goal of ensuring the Lake Ontario shoreline is more resilient so that flooding doesn't pose a problem in the future. He said he secured $12 million in the budget last year to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of constructing seawalls, piers and other measures to protect against high water levels. 

The study will take some time, he said, but it will help ensure "we never have to worry about the flooding ever again." 

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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.