A pair of central New York congressmen are urging the International Joint Commission to prevent flooding along Lake Ontario.
U.S. Reps. Anthony Brindisi and John Katko co-authored a letter to Lana Pollack, U.S. section chair of the commission, requesting "immediate action" to address rising water levels that could lead to a repeat of the floods that occurred in shoreline communities two years ago.
The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which was established by the IJC to manage water levels, reported last week that the lake is now nearly 15 inches above its average for this time of year. With the lake level at 246.06 feet, the board has increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam near Massena.
Brindisi, D-Utica, and Katko, R-Camillus, asked the IJC for information about how the commission plans to address the rising water levels and prevent flooding. Katko's district contains three counties — Cayuga, Oswego and Wayne — along Lake Ontario. Brindisi represents the eastern portion of Oswego County.
"As you know, shorelines across Lake Ontario were severely impacted by record flooding in 2017. The resulting devastation caused to local businesses, residences and infrastructure continue to be the subject of significant recovery efforts in coastal communities," Brindisi and Katko wrote. "In addition to threatening the lives of families throughout the region, continued flooding would only cause further destruction and cripple communities that are already struggling to respond to existing damage."
State and local officials brought attention to the rising water levels nearly two weeks. State Sen. Pam Helming and Assemblyman Brian Manktelow, Wayne County's state representatives, led a letter to Katko, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to alert them that flooding is a serious concern.
Wayne County officials told Helming and Manktelow that if lake levels reach 246.5 feet, they may declare a state of emergency.
Last week, Gillibrand and Schumer wrote to Pollack and urged the IJC to take action and prevent flooding along the lake.
The Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board is responding to the high water levels. In a Facebook post Friday, the board shared that outflows "remain very high and they continue to be gradually increased as conditions allow."