Governor says $300 million available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario funding

Photo courtesy of Governor’s Office: Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during the first Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative Conference today in Rochester.

Posted 10 June 2019 at 12:57 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today hosted the first meeting of community leaders and the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, commission where he announced up to $300 million in funding available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding.

Local governments will match 15 percent for every dollar the state spends. The Governor, the commission and more than 250 state and local officials from communities along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines gathered in Rochester to develop plans to reduce risk to infrastructure along the lake’s waterfront while strengthening the region’s local economies, which are heavily dependent on summer tourism. These areas have been devastated by flooding due to the lake’s historic high-water levels twice, first in 2017 and again this year. In both cases, this flooding has caused widespread shoreline erosion, damaged coastline structures and jeopardized infrastructure. Additionally, the Governor deployed an additional 100 National Guard for sandbagging missions in the Lake Ontario communities.

“We have a major challenge ahead of us,” Cuomo said. “This situation with Lake Ontario is not a once in a lifetime event, and the question is now not if it happens again, but when it happens again.

“The REDI Commission is going to be taking unprecedented action. It’s going to take total partnership. It’s going to take creativity. It’s going to take everyone working together. It’s going to take us pushing the envelope. It’s going to take significant resources. And I want you to know that in this unprecedented effort, the State of New York is behind the Lake Ontario communities and we’re going to commit up to $300 million to do the kind of resiliency and economic development work that we have to do.”

Since the previous record flooding of spring 2017, the State has committed more than $100 million to rebuild communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline that were devastated by flooding in 2017, only to again experience record high water levels and flooding in those same communities this year. The approach developed by the REDI task force and any subsequent investments resulting from its recommendations will take into account the new reality facing these communities.

“We are launching a bold effort to protect homes, businesses, and people’s livelihoods along the Lake Ontario shoreline by using the power of government and working in partnership with local communities,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who spoke at today’s announcement. “We have a responsibility to be stewards of the lake and ensure we build back stronger and smarter for the future.”

The commission has been touring and examining areas hard hit by flooding on Lake Ontario, including areas that were impacted by severe flooding in 2017. With input and proposals from local leaders the task force will develop a package of new actions – ranging from legislative changes to aid packages to executive actions – that will not just rebuild the shoreline, but improve resiliency to withstand whatever Mother Nature has in store in the future.

At today’s meeting, local governments began to outline their infrastructure and economic development priorities to state officials who will award funding to projects identified by the REDI commission. Local governments have until Labor Day to submit their projects for consideration.

The Governor also announced the launch of a new website to help local leaders and members of the community experiencing flooding seek immediate help from the state. The website serves as a one-stop shop to connect New Yorkers living along the shores of Lake Ontario with the information they need to withstand rising waters. On the site, residents can obtain information ranging from how to request resources to lake level data to permitting and grant information. As the situation progresses, the site will be updated with additional resources that may be useful.

Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “The REDI Commission will make strategic recommendations in partnership with local stakeholders, creating economic development opportunities while rebuilding more resilient communities in the face of this new environmental reality.”

Basil Seggos, Commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation said, “The increase in intense and frequent storms and the ongoing issues created by a changing climate continue to challenge those of us who love the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence region and want to see it thrive. That is why Governor Cuomo directed DEC and other members of REDI to prioritize the protection of our coastal communities and their infrastructure by developing a comprehensive agenda to improve shoreline resiliency.”

Dr. Gerrard P. Bushell, President & CEO of DASNY said, “DASNY is proud to contribute to Governor Cuomo’s REDI initiative and stands ready to assist the local communities impacted by rising water levels along Lake Ontario and the Saint Lawrence River. By helping these regions build back stronger and smarter, we will make certain they can meet their future emergency needs and ensure long-term economic success.”

Michael Kopy, the Governor’s Director of Emergency Operations said, “Sadly, we need to start looking at this flooding as the new normal and an ongoing problem until those responsible for managing water levels start doing a better job, and Mother Nature decides to cut us a break. With the Governor’s establishment of this REDI Commission, we will now able to look at implementing long term solutions that will only bolster the effectiveness of our short-term emergency management operations the next time this happens.”

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