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.