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State has approved 500 breakwalls for Orleans property owners after lake flooding

Photos by Tom Rivers: Spencer Pilon of Pilon Construction in Albion stands by a new breakwall in Kendall on Lomond Shores West. This is one of 30 breakwalls Pilon has put in this year after flooding tore apart many older breakwalls and eroded large chucks of the shoreline.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 December 2017 at 9:56 am

48 are complete or under construction with much work to be done in 2018

Pilon Construction has created this path to move heavy equipment to the shoreline to install a new breakwall in Kendall.

KENDALL – Pilon Construction went about the tricky task of getting heavy equipment in a narrow lane on Lomond Shores West in Kendall on Wednesday. The company put in swamp pads and steel plates to move an excavator and dump trucks to the shore, where about 600 tons of stone will be placed to protect property.

Pilon has put in 30 breakwalls this year and expects to do at least that many next year.

“We’re trying to give the residents some peace of mind,” Spencer Pilon said on Wednesday, when waves pounded the shoreline.

The historic flooding from Lake Ontario this year has chewed away large chunks of backyards along the shoreline. Spencer Pilon has been heading the breakwall effort for Pilon Construction. In some cases this year, he gave an estimate for a homeowner and had to come back a couple days later after more feet of property was lost.

He and a crew from Pilon have been building break walls full-time since May. While they were working, detached decks and other large lumber sometime floated by.

Pilon said his father and grandfather put in many of the breakwalls on the shoreline about 40 years ago. This year the lake has been punishing the shoreline since April, prompting a “state of emergency” declaration by the towns of Kendall, Carlton and Yates, as well as Orleans County and New York State.

The State Legislature approved a $15 million fund to provide assistance for lakeshore homeowners with property damage, capping the grants at $50,000. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is looking to increase that amount due to demand.

In Orleans County, about 500 applications have been approved. The governor has said all of the approved applications should be funded.

So far, 48 projects are complete or under construction in the county, said Chris Raymond, deputy for Housing Rehabilitation Programs for the PathStone Corporation. PathStone has been hired by the state to administer the program in Orleans County.

In addition to the 48 projects, 57 homeowners paid for their projects with their own money or loans and are waiting for additional funding from the state for reimbursement, Raymond said.

The top photo shows a property on Lomond Shores West in Kendall without a breakwall. Pilon Construction has the site prepped for about 600 tons of stone. The bottom photo shows a complete breakwall that Pilon recently put in.

Of the applications submitted, 10 were denied. The state set a threshold for income if the damaged property was a secondary home. If the total annual income of the occupants exceeded $275,000, they weren’t eligible for a grant.

The state has given priority to funding for senior citizens and disabled residents, with higher emphasis given if the projects involved septic systems or flooding in the house. Damage to the shoreline is considered less of a priority.

Many of the houses are located on narrow roads like Lomond Shores. The houses are close together and the yards are muddy. That makes it difficult to move the heavy equipment needed to do the jobs.

“Half the battle is getting in,” Pilon said on Wednesday.

The swamp pads and steel plates create a temporary path that helps to minimize damage to the yards and septic systems, while allowing the excavator and trucks to get near the shore.

Pilon brings in some big boulders that are 3 to 6 tons each. Those are used as the exterior wall and as the base. Smaller rocks then fill in the breakwall. Pilon doesn’t just aimlessly drop big stones by the edge of the lake. He said the tiered approach – big stones on the exterior wall and as the base with smaller stones on top – help the wall to absorb the hits from the waves.

Pilon said the company expects to be busy with the breakwalls in 2018 and perhaps beyond.

PathStone said there are many properties awaiting work.

“It looks like a year-plus to address every property,” Raymond said. “PathStone is presently concentrating our efforts and the state’s money on properties close to the lake with no/minimal shoreline protection, low lying homes or eroded, undercut cliffs.”

The deadline to apply for the residential projects passed in September, but there is still time for businesses and non-profits to seek state and federal assistance for damages from the flooding. Click here and here for more information.

Big stones are part of a new breakwall at left in Kendall.

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