Cuomo Announces Funding for Lake Ontario Shoreline Residents

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Youngstown, NY (WBEN) Governor Cuomo announces $300 million for shoreline communities along Lake Ontario, including $49 million for projects in Niagara and Orleans Counties. 

The money is part of the first round of funding under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative. Governor Cuomo launched REDI in May to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Today's announcement marks a major milestone in the REDI effort. Identified by the communities and evaluated by state agency experts, the projects address both immediate and long-term resiliency needs, enhance economic development, protect critical infrastructure, incorporate green, natural, or nature-based features, and will help sustainably rebuild and enhance communities along the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River shorelines."The recent challenge of historic high water levels along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines calls for a swift and innovative response, and today I am announcing REDI projects in Niagara and Orleans counties that will create long-term sustainability for communities and businesses," Governor Cuomo said. "I directed 11 state agencies to mobilize their expertise and assess a portfolio of community-driven actions that will sustainably protect and enhance the region's infrastructure, habitats, and local economies. Working together, our Empire State experts and stakeholders came up with 20 projects in these counties that will help the region regain resiliency and economic vibrancy." 

"Communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have faced tremendous challenges in recent years. That's why we have taken aggressive action to help local governments, businesses, and homeowners with state support to improve resiliency and address the impact of flooding," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "This targeted funding for projects in Niagara and Orleans counties will address infrastructure needs to ensure sustainability long-term. These critical efforts will help to combat devastation from extreme weather events, strengthen our economy, and enhance quality of life for residents."

Since record high water levels in 2017, New York State has committed more than $100 million to rebuild communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline that were devastated by flooding, only to again experience record high water levels and flooding in these same communities this year.

Five REDI regions, comprised of eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties. The remaining balance, $235 million, has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.To identify projects, over the course of three months, REDI organized 25 stakeholder and community meetings and workshops with hundreds of local residents, convened more than 15 planning committee meetings, and directed New York State agency and engineering experts to expend thousands of hours to evaluate more than 500 projects proposed by communities. The projects comprise a range of at-risk assets, including shoreline stabilization, public health and safety, critical water and wastewater infrastructure, marinas and harbors, and land loss/value, among other priorities, with an emphasis on natural or nature-based features and green infrastructure.

For each project, multi-jurisdictional permit reviews, and any associated environmental reviews, will be needed prior to any final determination to proceed. To build resilience, reduce the risk of future property damage, and minimize habitat impacts, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has compiled general guidelines for coastal design and development projects. These guidelines include technical data, regulatory guidance, best practices, and available resources for development along the dynamic shorelines of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. This comprehensive technical and permitting information to help expedite the permitting process is available on the REDI guidance webpage.

To further address the challenges posed by high water levels, in addition to the county-specific projects announced today, Governor Cuomo announced an eight-county $15 million Regional Dredging effort to sustainably maintain safe navigation channels to harbors and bays along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. These channels are critical to the vitality of recreational and commercial boating, which generate millions of dollars annually in economic activity and support more than 1,000 jobs across the region.

The effort will address the required maintenance dredging of at least 17 harbor channels used primarily for recreational boating. Dredging sediments appropriate for benecial re-use may be employed in ecosystem restoration or erosion management projects, with likely benets to habitat, water quality, and beach nourishment.    

The complete list of the 20 projects is available here. Highlighted REDI projects and estimated costs include:  

  • The $15,707,000 Olcott Harbor Project in the Town of Newfane will encircle the lower harbor with a promenade and shoreline stabilization to secure public health and safety by providing flood protection for critical sanitary sewer infrastructure and residences in the hamlet of Olcott and Newfane.  This project will support economic development through aesthetic and water access improvements. Resilience measures, including elevated shoreline treatments, one along East Harbor and the other along the West Harbor, will together protect Pump Station #6, businesses, buildings, and residences in the eastern portion of the harbor, and the town's critical sanitary sewer infrastructure, which benefits the entire area. In addition to the shoreline protection measures, the project would entail improvements to the existing pump station to mitigate erosion and other high water related damage. The project may also include raising the elevation of the east Federal Pier, which protects the harbor entrance.
  • The $3,362,000 Sunset Island West Barrier Bar Project in the Town of Wilson will include paving, raising, or otherwise reinforcing paths that protect land that might provide shoreline protections between the path and water.
  • The $2,103,000 Village of Youngstown Waterfront Project in the Town of Porter will provide protection to the waterfront to support economic development, recreation, and tourism. The project will raise existing shoreline stabilization measures and add floating docks and jetties to reduce wave action for boating activity and shoreline erosion.
  • The $1,814,000 Olcott Beach Berm Project in the Town of Newfane will redesign the beach berm to create a long-term solution to stabilize the berm and provide a flood strategy behind the berm, such as added floodway roads and/or a pump system. It will protect the west side of Olcott from wave action, as well as a town parking lot and year-round businesses and homes in the low-lying area. 
  • The $87,000 YMCA Camp Kenan Project in the Town of Somerset will provide shoreline protection measures to help maintain public access to the camp. The camp is adjacent to the shoreline, which has experienced flooding and erosion due to high water levels and wave action. The nature-based shoreline stabilization measure will protect the camp, which serves as a seasonal home away from home for hundreds of campers each year.   
  • The $2,531,000 Yates Town Park and Expansion Project in the Town of Yates will provide shoreline remediation and expansion to include NYSEG land to create resilient wildlife refuge, increase areas of protected wetlands, and enhance public access to the Lake Ontario shoreline. It will also include shoreline protection treatments on the east and west borders of the park to mitigate effects of wave action/erosion on proposed wetlands.
  • The $2,062,000 Lakeshore Road (Route 97) Project in the towns of Carlton and Kendall will seek to stabilize a bluff alongside Route 97 and improve shoreline protections for the road and buried water lines. This project includes consideration for a large-scale offshore shoal system to improve fish habitat and act as a wave break.
  • The $628,000 Lakeside Park Road East and West projects will restore and protect this roadway to ensure access for residents and emergency responders. Shoreline stabilization measures will protect the road and buried utilities.
  • The $751,000 Point Breeze Boat Launch Project in the Town of Carlton will help upgrade and increase the resiliency of this facility by replacing fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips. These improvements will help maintain this facility, which supports local economic activity and access for recreational boating.
  • The $131,000 Thompson Drive Project will address erosion of the turnaround, ensuring water access at the beach. This nature-based project will reduce erosion and protect local infrastructure while maintaining access along the route.

Click here for illustrative depictions of projects.

DEC Commissioner and REDI Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "The depth and scope of these innovative projects in Niagara and Orleans counties, and the speed with which they were developed, is exceptional. Governor Cuomo had the foresight to bring together a multitude of state and local leaders and stakeholders to nurture diverse ideas and actions that will benefit Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River communities and help them become stronger and more resilient."

Empire State Development Acting Commissioner, President & CEO-Designate and REDI Commission Co-Chair Eric Gertler said, "Rebuilding with greater resilience is more important than ever given the new environmental reality of increasing water levels along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The REDI Commission is working hard to ensure that communities not only recover more quickly from destructive weather events, but are stronger and better prepared for the future, unfortunate effects of climate change."

Thirty million dollars of REDI funds have been set aside for the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program, which will be administered by Empire State Development (ESD). Under the program, ESD will provide grants of up to $200,000 to eligible applicants who experienced direct physical flood-related damage due to the high-water levels from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019.  Eligible applicant types are expected to include small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, farms, homeowners' associations and owners of rental properties. Under the Program, grants will be available to reimburse up to 50 percent of an eligible applicant's capital improvement project that is designed to strengthen their business against impacts of future flooding and make their business more resilient in nature. Each project must also receive matching support from a local government totaling at least five percent of state funds to be awarded under the Program. Local contributions are expected to include, but not be limited to, certain tax exemptions offered by Industrial Development Authorities, local government waivers of the costs of ordinarily due permits and fees, and direct expenditures by local governments on project-related infrastructure. To be notified when the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program is open for applications, please complete the recently published intake form here.