WASHINGTON – A year after floods caused more than $50 million in property damage along Lake Ontario, lawmakers from both sides of Capitol Hill and both parties launched a push Wednesday for a new federal study aimed at finding ways to prevent such devastation from ever happening again along the Great Lakes.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both New York Democrats, joined with 10 of their colleagues to ask the Trump administration to include a Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study in the president's fiscal 2019 budget proposal, which will be released in February.
In a separate letter to the Trump administration, Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence Republican, and 17 of his colleagues make the same request.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study would aim to develop a strategy for managing the Great Lakes coastline as well as the St. Lawrence River, while identifying vulnerable areas and steps that could be taken to prevent future flooding. The study's wide scope could prompt suggestions for helping not only the Lake Ontario shoreline, but also other flood-prone areas of the Great Lakes, such as the Lake Erie shoreline in Hamburg.
"Just as after Superstorm Sandy the Army Corps created a plan that is now making New York’s Atlantic shoreline more resilient, we need the Army Corps to greenlight this plan to protect New York’s Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and St. Lawrence River shorelines," Schumer said.
Collins agreed, saying: “This study would be the first of its kind, making it immensely helpful to shoreline businesses and homeowners who can so quickly experience devastating financial losses during severe weather."
The two senators asked for the study to move forward in a letter to Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Ryan A. Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.
Meantime, Collins made his request to Mulvaney and R.D. James, who is set to succeed Fisher. Rep. Brian Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat, and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from Fairport, were among the lawmakers who signed Collins' letter.
Both the senators and Collins noted in their letters that the Army Corps districts in Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit all want to see the study funded.
And Gillibrand noted how important the study will be to people who live along the lakes.
“While communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline continue to recover from the disastrous floods over the last year, we must also do everything we can to prepare against future risk," she said.
The federal government would pay $9 million toward the study, with Great Lakes states pitching in at least $3 million in total.
Neither the senators' letter nor the one from House members mentioned "Plan 2014," the controversial International Joint Commission water management plan than Collins has argued was responsible for the Lake Ontario flooding.