Rep. Stefanik calls on Gov. Cuomo to seek FEMA assistance as St. Lawrence River flooding continues
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 2:41 pm

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik NY-21 is joining several other New York representatives in urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to request assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency as flooding continues along the St. Lawrence River.

Chris Collins (NY-27) penned a letter and John Katko (NY-24), Claudia Tenney (NY-22) Stefanik joined in the call.

In a letter to the Governor released today, the Representatives who all represent shore areas, called on Cuomo to comply with the federal Stafford Act and make the initial request for federal assistance. Federal law requires the initial request to come from the governor in order for President Trump to declare a federal state of emergency for the Ontario lakeshore areas.

“Heavy rainfall in recent months has caused near historic levels of flooding along the St. Lawrence River,” said Congresswoman Stefanik (NY-21). “As water levels continue to rise, so do concerns about damage to homes, businesses, marinas and docks. My office has been working closely with officials at the state level to address this issue, and I have been in continued conversations with FEMA officials and regional representatives for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who are monitoring the situation closely. We must act now to protect our shoreline property owners and I urge Governor Cuomo to expedite a request for federal relief.”

According to the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), current water levels in Lake Ontario are measuring in 31 inches higher than average and are expected to rise another 5 inches over the next 30 days.

Shoreline property owners continue to invest in break-walls and other erosion protection resources; however, a significant number of homes have been condemned and impacted property owners anticipate tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

The letter details that while both the National Guard and USACE have helped provide counties along the shoreline with hundreds of thousands of sandbags, unfortunately “they are no match for waves measured between 5-7 feet tall that are crashing against private property, housing structures, and docks causing irreparable damage to the shoreline.”

The letter can be seen below:

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We are writing you today regarding the recent flooding along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario water levels have recently surpassed record high levels, currently sitting 31 inches higher than normal levels with an expected increase of 5 inches over the next 30 days.

It has come to our attention that your office has not yet requested the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in getting damage assessments. This is a crucial first step in the process of declaring a federal state of emergency through the Stafford Act. As you know, a declaration by the president of a major disaster must originate from the Governor of the affected State.

Erosion along the shoreline is a serious issue; nearly all of the shoreline in New York State erodes at a rate of one foot per year, some parts erode at a rate of more than two feet per year. This recent flooding has exacerbated erosion, some property owners who once had 80 feet of land standing between their home and the lake, are currently looking at 40 feet or less.

Numerous shoreline property owners have invested in break-walls surrounding their property that are now sitting far into the lake. Homeowners and shoreline property owners are experiencing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, homes have been condemned, and there is no relief in sight.

The National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers have helped counties along the shoreline to fill and place hundreds of thousands of sandbags. Unfortunately, they are no match for waves measured between 5-7 feet tall that are crashing against private property, housing structures, and docks causing irreparable damage to the shoreline.

While we commend you for ordering the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to speed up permit processing for the construction of protective structures, we respectfully request that you swiftly begin the process for requesting federal assistance. We must act now to protect our shoreline property owners.