Collins doesn’t want federal funds used for lake plan

Staff Reports Posted 30 March 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – A boat approaches the Oak Orchard Harbor last summer off Point Breeze in Orleans County.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter sent last week to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, U.S. Representatives Chris Collins (NY-27) and John Katko (NY-24) requested language preventing the use of any federal funding to implement the International Joint Commission’s Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Plan (Plan 2014) for the 2016 Fiscal Year.

“Plan 2014 is not in the best interest of homeowners and other stakeholders along the Lake Ontario shoreline,” Collins said. “The plan would quicken erosion along Lake Ontario’s already rapidly deteriorating shorelines, lower property values for homeowners and have a negative impact on the region’s economy by limiting recreational and commercial boating. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to fight Plan 2014’s implementation, and am happy to be joined by Congressman Katko in this effort.”

Plan 2014 will increase the frequency by which Lake Ontario’s water levels are raised and lowered, Collins said ina news release today. This has the potential to cause substantial damage to the lake’s south shoreline, which houses hundreds of businesses and residences.

The plan would also raise the current maximum water levels by 2.4 inches and increase the annual cost of shoreline maintenance and protections by 13 percent. These water level changes threaten the economic activities of hundreds of communities, residents, businesses, and farms, Collins said.

He held a news conference last July at the Oak Orchard Harbor and was joined by many county officials from Niagara and Orleans.

Six southshore counties have 10,025 parcels of land with a total assessed value of $3.7 billion, Lynne Johnson, an Orleans County legislator, said then. If they suffer a 10 percent loss, those communities would lose $370 million in value.

Katko also is joining in the call for the federal government not to fund the lake-level plan.

“As a lifelong hunter, sportsman and conservationist, I recognize the value of preserving our natural resources and supporting conservation measures – but the IJC’s Plan 2014 could irreversibly damage the Wayne County shoreline, as well as local tourism, recreation, and agriculture,” Katko said. “Before adopting a plan that puts Lake Ontario south shore communities at risk to suffer millions of dollars of damage, it is critical that a more detailed analysis of the plan’s economic impact is provided. Right now, that means taking steps in Congress to ensure that federal dollars are not provided to implement the Plan.”

The binational International Joint Commission approved the new plan last June, the first significant change since 1958.

Prime real estate could be washed away, gobbling up back yards and the tax base, Collins said. During times of low lake levels, boaters may not be able to get out of harbors and into the lake, harming the fishing and recreational industries that are important economic engines for lakeshore communities, he said.

To see the letter from Katko and Collins, click here.