Orleans-Niagara press Cuomo to veto lake level plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 July 2014 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – This photo was taken last October from a sailboat on Lake Ontario.

County officials in Niagara and Orleans counties know an easy solution to blocking a controversial new plan for regulating Lake Ontario levels, a plan that could lead to greater fluctuations in the lake with more erosion in high waters and shallow marinas and ports in the other extreme.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should step in and use his power to veto the plan, the Orleans County Legislature said today in an official resolution. The Niagara County Legislature is expected to pass a similar resolution.

Officials at both counties worry a new bi-national plan for regulating water levels will erode valuable lakeshore property and jeopardize the fishing and tourism industries along the lake.

“It’s not just a lakeshore issue, it’s an entire county issue,” Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey said today during a County Legislature meeting. A destructive lake could reduce sales tax revenues and property assessments, driving up taxes for inland property owners, he said.

Godfrey joined Lynne Johnson, an Orleans County legislator, about two weeks ago in Washington, D.C. They met with U.S. Department of State officials, Congressman Chris Collins and representatives from Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. Collins has also called on Cuomo to kill the IJC plan because of the economic hardship it could have on the southshore.

Orleans and Niagara counties have formed the Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance, which today called on Cuomo to “enact an all-inclusive and thorough analysis on the potential economic damages” of the lake plan on tourism, recreation, homeowners and businesses on the southshore, particularly in Orleans and Niagara which are projected to see the most damage from high and low waters.

“It’s a very radical plan,” Johnson said at today’s meeting. “It’s good for the ecosystem, for cattails and muskrats and such, but it’s very detrimental to lakeshore property owners and the fishing industry.”

The Legislature’s resolution also asks Cuomo to assess civil work and financial assistance needed to mitigate the lake level plan, and to identify funding sources to help offset those impacts.

Legislature Chairman David Callard said the lake proposal warrants a stern response from the county, as well as efforts to send a message in person, even if it means travelling to the nation’s capital.

“We will go to Albany, we will go to Washington, D.C. and we will go to New York City,” Callard said. “We will go anywhere we need to represent our rights.”