Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a state of emergency for all seven New York counties on the Lake Ontario shoreline, plus St. Lawrence County, as water levels continue to rise.
Niagara County, the towns of Newfane, Wilson, Porter, Somerset, and the villages of Wilson and Youngstown declared states of emergency as well.
Cuomo visited the Olcott community, in Newfane, Monday morning to make the announcement.
In addition, Cuomo ordered New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Commissioner Erik Kulleseid to implement a “no wake zone” within 1,000 feet of the lake’s shoreline. Boaters will be required to obey a 5 mile per hour speed limit in that zone.
“The emergency order also gives us the flexibility in dealing with local governments and with private property,” Cuomo said after touring Olcott for the second time this month. “A lot of the precautions we want to take will be on private property.”
Cuomo predicted the next few weeks will be a “redux” of 2017, when thousands of lakeshore property owners from Niagara County to Jefferson County saw their land damaged. As of last Friday, the lake was at 248.5 feet. That is the most recent data available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 2017, the lake peaked around 249 feet.
“It’s going to be there,” Newfane Town Supervisor Tim Horanburg said, predicting the lake could match those historic water levels from 2017 as early as Wednesday.
Cuomo says this year, state officials are better prepared.
“(We have) more equipment, combined with additional knowledge,” Cuomo said. “Like the DEC reforms that they put in place, allowing people to do work now to protect their property under a general permit.”
Newfane town officials say some of the equipment that they have could soon start to fail.
“The water table is coming up through the ground,” Horanburg said. “It’s something we can’t control. Some of our pumps are on the verge of not being able to keep up.”
Horanburg asked state officials for bigger pumps Monday morning.
Leaders in the town have already closed Olcott Beach for the entire year. With Memorial Day weekend just days away, Horanburg is begging tourists to visit, despite what may happen on the shoreline.
“Olcott has not shut down,” he said.
One tourist already in town is Scott Dubbelde. He regularly visits Olcott from his Indiana home to fish.
“The fishing is good,” Dubbelde said, showing off a salmon he caught.
But, he has noticed some differences in town.
“There are some areas that are inaccessible,” Dubbelde said. “The parking lot, you lose a lot of parking because the parking lot is flooded.
“You can’t walk around like you normally can.”