3 congressmen pushing legislation to allow lawsuits against IJC over shoreline damage

Posted 4 March 2020 at 7:41 am

Press Release, U.S. Rep. John Katko

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Carpenter: A gazebo at Green Harbor Campground and Marina floated away from the site along Lake Ontario on May 16, 2017 due to high waters. Some of Green Harbor’s neighbors went out in a row boat to rescue the gazebo.

OSWEGO — Standing alongside local elected officials, homeowners and businessowners from Lake Ontario shoreline communities, U.S. Reps John Katko (NY-24) and Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) on Monday announced the introduction of the IJC Accountability Act.

This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Reps. Katko, Brindisi and Joe Morelle (NY-25), would remove International Joint Commission (IJC) immunity from lawsuits, allowing impacted shoreline communities to take legal action against the IJC for flooding damages.

In 2017 and 2019, communities along Lake Ontario’s southern shore experienced historic high-water levels, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.

Reps. Katko, Brindisi, and Morelle have long worked in a bipartisan manner to hold the IJC accountable for failing to protect coastal communities, and, most recently, urged substantive steps to prevent further devastation by increasing outflows to the maximum extent possible and developing a realistic plan for managing Lake Ontario water levels.

However, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicting lake levels may reach or exceed previous levels in the upcoming spring, Reps. Katko, Brindisi, and Morelle’s IJC Accountability Act will allow impacted communities to pursue legal action against the IJC for failing to prevent past and future flooding damage.

“High water levels along Lake Ontario have devastated homes, businesses, and infrastructure in our region – and we’re not seeing an adequate response from the IJC,” said Rep. Katko. “Homeowners and business owners alike have been forced to pay thousands of dollars to make repairs to keep their homes safe and their businesses open. The IJC has failed to adequately protect our shoreline communities against costly damage, and this legislation aims to hold this organization accountable and ensure impacted communities have the ability to seek restitution.”

“It is time the IJC is held accountable for their carelessness, futility, and inaction,” said Rep. Brindisi. “I’ve met with families, toured businesses, and seen the devastation flooding has caused in these communities. I stand with this community when I say enough is enough. This bill will bring accountability to the IJC and allow flood victims to have their day in court.”

“Sodus Point and many communities across Lake Ontario’s southern shore are still recovering from, and paying for, the costly flooding we experienced in 2017 and 2019,” said Mayor of Sodus Point Dave McDowell. “Now, as we see reports that upcoming lake levels will reach or exceed previous years, Wayne County residents will again be forced to pay for pricey repairs, through no fault of their own. I am glad to see Congressman Katko leading efforts to hold the IJC accountable for their inaction and proud to stand with him in calling on the IJC to prevent additional flooding.”

“Residents along Lake Ontario’s Southern shore know all too well that the next major flooding event is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” said Rep. Morelle. “That’s why I have continued to call on the IJC to take preventative measures to mitigate future damage—however, I am disappointed with the lack of meaningful guidance and support for our communities. We must take action to improve the resiliency of our shoreline before further damage is done.  I’m grateful to my colleagues, Congressmen Katko and Brindisi, for their partnership as we work to hold the IJC accountable and protect our communities.”

“My concern is for those people that live along the lake,” said Richland Town Supervisor Dan Krupke. “They are some of our highest taxed properties.  Most of these people do not have the resources or the recourse to receive any financial relief of this magnitude.  This is either because they did not have flood insurance or because it is not their primary residence.  Keep in mind, this is mostly a “man-made” disaster.  Many of these people have had their homes for generations and now they are expected to move or rebuild.  The economic impact on our communities will be far reaching as many businesses depend on this seasonal trade.”

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