Collins, 3 others in Congress want FEMA aid for shoreline property owners

Posted 18 May 2017 at 4:35 pm

Members of the National Guard battle crashing waves while placing sandbags along the Kendall shoreline on May 7.

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representatives Chris Collins (NY-27), John Katko (NY-24), Claudia Tenney (NY-22) and Elise Stefanik (NY-21) are urging Governor Cuomo to take swift action in requesting the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deliver relief to Lake Ontario shoreline and St. Lawrence River property owners.

In a letter to the Governor released today, the Representatives who all represent shore areas, called on Cuomo to comply with the federal Stafford Act and make the initial request for federal assistance. Federal law requires the initial request to come from the governor in order for President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency for the Ontario lakeshore areas.

“While we commend Governor Cuomo’s efforts thus far to address the concerns of Lake Ontario homeowners, our letter respectfully urges him to request the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” said Congressman Collins. “In making a formal request to President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency, impacted residents will be able to access the wide-ranging disaster assistance that FEMA has to offer. Our Lake Ontario constituents have remained patient as water levels continue to rise each day, but it’s now time to act and provide them with the relief they deserve.”

Representatives Katko, Tenney, and Stefanik signed onto the letter sent to Governor Cuomo, as they too represent communities along Lake Ontario impacted by recent record high water levels.

“With rising lake levels gravely impacting communities along the southern shore of Lake Ontario, I’ve spent time visiting with property owners and local officials in Fair Haven, Sodus, and Oswego.  Homeowners, businesses, and farmers are suffering substantial and costly damage,” said Congressman Katko (NY-24). “I applaud Governor Cuomo for his attention to this critical and unprecedented situation.  Still, current water levels pose a significant burden and, left unaddressed, will continue to cause damage to shoreline communities across New York State.  That’s why I’ve joined my colleagues to urge the Governor to elevate these concerns by requesting federal assistance from FEMA so that our communities may have access to the assistance they desperately need.”

According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), current water levels in Lake Ontario are measuring in 31 inches higher than average and are expected to rise another 5 inches over the next 30 days.

Shoreline property owners continue to invest in breakwalls and other erosion protection resources; however, a significant number of homes have been condemned and impacted property owners anticipate tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

The letter details that while both the National Guard and USACE have helped provide counties along the shoreline with hundreds of thousands of sandbags, unfortunately “they are no match for waves measured between 5-7 feet tall that are crashing against private property, housing structures, and docks causing irreparable damage to the shoreline.”

Full text of the letter along with signatories can be seen here and full text can be read below.

May 18, 2017

The Honorable Andrew Cuomo


State of New York

The Capitol

Albany, New York 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We are writing you today regarding the recent flooding along the shoreline of Lake Ontario.  Lake Ontario water levels have recently surpassed record high levels, currently sitting 31 inches higher than normal levels with an expected increase of 5 inches over the next 30 days.

It has come to our attention that your office has not yet requested the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in getting damage assessments.  This is a crucial first step in the process of declaring a federal state of emergency through the Stafford Act.  As you know, a declaration by the president of a major disaster must originate from the Governor of the affected State.

Erosion along the shoreline is a serious issue; nearly all of the shoreline in New York State erodes at a rate of one foot per year, some parts erode at a rate of more than two feet per year.  This recent flooding has exacerbated erosion, some property owners who once had 80 feet of land standing between their home and the lake, are currently looking at 40 feet or less.

Numerous shoreline property owners have invested in break-walls surrounding their property that are now sitting far into the lake.  Homeowners and shoreline property owners are experiencing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, homes have been condemned, and there is no relief in sight.

The National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers have helped counties along the shoreline to fill and place hundreds of thousands of sandbags.  Unfortunately, they are no match for waves measured between 5-7 feet tall that are crashing against private property, housing structures, and docks causing irreparable damage to the shoreline.

While we commend you for ordering the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to speed up permit processing for the construction of protective structures, we respectfully request that you swiftly begin the process for requesting federal assistance.  We must act now to protect our shoreline property owners.

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