Residents feel helpless as lake takes big chunks from property, getting closer to homes

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lakeshore property on Knapp Shores is thrashed by waves this morning in Kendall. The high lake water level and big waves have breached many break walls.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 May 2017 at 8:08 pm

‘It’s happening so quickly, I don’t know what to do.’

KENDALL – Lakeshore residents are trying to protect their land as Lake Ontario chews up their backyards, getting closer to septic systems and houses.

Many of the residents have lost 10 to 30 feet of their backyards in the past two weeks. Breakwalls have been breached and the soil is being devoured by the lake.

“It’s happening so quickly, I don’t know what to do,” said Heather Drake of Knapp Shores.

She has lived along the lake for six years and has a concrete breakwall. That wall now has a crack in it, and water is going overtop and underneath the breakwall.

The lake and its big waves are chewing away land behind Heather Drake’s breakwall in Kendall.

The Town of Kendall has filled in gaps in the yard near the breakwall by putting 2,300 sandbags on the property. Many of those sandbags have also been washed away from the lake.

The town has been experimenting with larger bags from farmers, where up to 150 sandbags can be put in. Warren Kruger, the town highway superintendent, said they may provide a temporary fix until residents can work out bringing in rocks to better protect their property.

“I’ve lived here six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Drake said this morning as waves pummeled the breakwall, splashing several feet into her backyard.

The waves have taken chunks of land, including this spot on Ed Shores Road owned by John Procopio. He has lived by the lake on Ed Rose Shores for 32 years. He said you can expect to lose about a foot a year to the lake. He has lost about 10 feet the past week.

“I lost another three feet since yesterday,” he said this morning, checking his backyard. “I’m at the mercy of the lake right now. It’s undercutting the dirt and then the top caves in.”

He put in boulders more than three decades ago, and the water has go over them. Many of the big rocks along the shoreline are no longer a wall. They have been knocked around, and the water has “open season” on the soil, Kruger said.

The National Guard and Kendall residents work to get sandbags in place on Knapp Shores.

Orleans and Niagara counties have been under a flood warning today due to the high lake waters and northern winds that have been causing big waves to hit the southshore.

Procopio said the wind is an enemy right now.

“The northern wind just beats the hell out of everything,” he said.

Eric Maxon, a highway department worker, has pallets full of sandbags for residents on Knapp Shores. Kruger, the highway superintendent, said the roads are narrow and the houses close together, which makes bringing in equipment difficult at some locations.

The town has distributed more than 27,000 sandbags, and they are helping to stave off erosion in some spots. The highway department helped create one wall of sandbags on Saturday that was tied down with ropes and stakes. Kruger was pleased to see that was still holding today.

That could serve as a blueprint for success, to be emulated along other properties.

“The sandbags are just temporary to try to save what you can of your property,” he said.

Warren Kruger, second from right, meets with lakeshore residents today, including Mike Anschutz, in camouflage.

Mike Anschutz recently purchased a house that has been in his family since 1963. The house was originally his great-grandmother’s.

Last summer, Anschutz sat at the end of his property, dipping his toes in the water. Now he worries the lake will barrel into the house.

Anschutz’s neighbor, Les Kurpiewski had a deck by the water a week ago. Now it’s caved in.

Bill Vess said he’s lost five feet of his backyard and worries more will be gone. Warren Kruger, the highway superintendent, is nervous as breakwalls have been breached, with soil vulnerable to the lake.

As Kruger drove along the lakeshore roads, he saw residents with wheelbarrows, pushing sandbags to their backyards. Other residents were out checking on neighbors.

“This is really hard for a lot of people, but they are keeping their spirits up,” Kruger said.

The governor has declared a state emergency for the southshore and has directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to expedite the permitting process to along stone and upgraded breakwalls for homeowners.

Kruger said the breakwalls are costly, and many residents will need help to pay for them.

Ideally, he said there would be a consistent breakwall along the shoreline. Right now, it varies with different levels of protection.

Jim Barrett (left), president of the Kendall Fire Department, and his son Alex check the shoreline this morning on Ed Rose Shores.

Barrett said many of the residents lack the resources to bring in rocks and strengthen breakwalls.

Bob Defendorf uses a tractor to bring a pallet of sandbags for residents on Knapp Shores.

A chunk of Thompson Drive at the western end of Kendall has been eaten up by the lake.

The National Guard from Rochester helps stack sandbags today in Kendall.

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