Schumer, Gillibrand want better plan from Army Corps to protect Great Lakes shoreline

Photo by Tom Rivers: Waves pound the shoreline at Lighthouse Christian Camp in Barker on Aug. 5, 2017.

Posted 31 January 2018 at 1:55 pm

Press Release, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, along with members of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to include the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study in the president’s FY2019 budget request.

Following the damaging flood waters that impacted New York’s Lake Ontario shoreline communities last year, causing millions of dollars in damages, the senators said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) needs to fund a new study to develop an infrastructure strategy for the future management of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River coast. The Great Lakes Coast Resiliency Study will identify vulnerable areas and identify measures to increase resilience.

According to the senators, “Without such a plan, management strategies would continue to address coastal flooding through a piecemeal approach that is inefficient and limited in effectiveness.”

The study, which was proposed by the three USACE Great Lakes District Offices (Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo) to USACE headquarters for funding consideration this year, would be the first of its kind to coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to most efficiently and effectively manage and protect the Great Lakes coastline from future flooding events.

“After the devastating Lake Ontario flood waters that eroded shorelines and inundated homes, business, and infrastructure causing millions in damages, we need to bolster our Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River shoreline and make it more resilient against any future flooding,” said Senator Schumer. “Just as after Superstorm Sandy the Army Corps created a plan that is now making New York’s Atlantic shoreline more resilient, we need the Army Corps to greenlight this plan to protect New York’s Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and St. Lawrence River shorelines. It is imperative that we protect the Great Lake coastline and this study is the first step to doing just that.”

“While communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline continue to recover from the disastrous floods over the last year, we must also do everything we can to prepare against future risk,” said Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “This study by the Army Corps of Engineers is a critical first step to assess the vulnerabilities that exist and identify the measures that can be taken to protect the families, businesses, and ecosystems along the shoreline. I will continue to fight for whatever funding is necessary to ensure the safety of these communities, and I urge all of my colleagues to join me in this effort.”

The senators explained how recent events demonstrate the devastation and destruction that severe weather events and flooding can have on our nation’s lake coastlines and communities. In particular, the Great Lakes coastline faces numerous threats, such as erosion, flooding, nutrient runoff, and aging infrastructure.

The senators explained that it is vital to protect the Great Lakes’ 5,200-mile coastline, as well as the 4.2 million people who live within two miles of the coastline. The coastline is also critical to a robust economy and tourism industry in the Great Lakes, which includes 60 commercial harbors, a maritime economy valued at $17.3 billion and generating 293,000 jobs, a $14 billion Great Lakes recreation, and tourism economy, and a diverse ecosystem of features such as wetlands, bluffs, dunes and beaches, and species that are either threatened or endangered.

The senators said that this study is a top priority for the three Army Corps Districts (Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo) surrounding the Great Lakes as well as the Army Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division, but requires approval by the USACE headquarters. In addition, it also has the support of New York State, six other Great Lakes states, the Great Lakes Commission, and several federal agencies with missions in coastal management, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Geological Survey. These partners have recognized the need for regional collaboration to ensure the most efficient use of resources to protect the Great Lakes coastline.

The senators also explained that after Superstorm Sandy, the USACE completed a similar multi-year study – the North Atlantic Coast Comprehensive Study – that enabled local communities to better understand changing flood risks and to provide tools to help those communities better prepare for future flood risks. There is no similar study for the nation’s Great Lakes Coastline.  The senators said this new Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency study is now needed to fix this significant gap.

The senators thanked the Army Corps for their consultation and said that the results of the study will be used to make the coastline throughout the Great Lakes more resilient and to support a more strategic expenditure of state and federal funds.

“It is vital that the Army Corps include this study in their FY2019 budget so that the Great Lakes can be protected for generations to come,” Schumer and Gillibrand said.

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