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Help! Lake Ontario shoreline businesses are watching profits go down the drain

Business owners in Olcott/Wilson tell lawmakers that profits are down 20%
Posted: 6:24 PM, Jul 11, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-11 18:24:24-04

OLCOTT/WILSON N.Y. (WKBW) — Summer is the most important time of the year economically for the communities of Olcott Beach and Wilson in Niagara County - normally.

This year, the high-water crisis on Lake Ontario has closed beaches, chased away boaters because docks and piers are underwater, and scared off visitors who wrongly think those areas are completely flooded out.

"It is hard to promote Olcott Beach if you don't have a beach," said Newfane Town Supervisor Tim Horanburg.

The swimming beach at Olcott is closed for the summer because of the high water on Lake Ontario.

NYS Assemblymember Mike Norris said business owners in the two communities have already seen a 20% decrease in profits this season.

"If they can't get into dock, they can't come ashore," said Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey, who added that the water crisis is keeping Canadian boaters away.

The concern is the drop in sales tax revenue from the shoreline communities will end up affecting all taxpayers in Niagara County.

"These coming years are going to be very tough for our towns and villages because they depend on that sales tax revenue, and it is not coming in," explained Godfrey.

NYS Senator Robert Ortt (R-62nd Senate District) and Assemblymember Mike Norris (R-144th Assembly District) joined with local elected officials from Olcott/Wilson to tour the affected areas and talk with business owners.

Governor Cuomo's Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) Commission has allocated $300 million to help communities impacted by the water crisis to recover and take steps to be more resilient against future high-water events.

But both Ortt and Norris believe more needs to be done on a federal level to help the communities and business that are hurting.

"I would like to see more from our federal partners seeing as the IJC (International Joint Commission) and Plan 2014 are a big part of why we are standing here today," said NYS Senator Ortt.

The IJC released a statement that water levels are starting to decline in Lake Ontario and the commission plans to continue allowing higher amounts of water to be drained from the lake through a dam on the St Lawrence River - even though it exceeds outflow amounts specified in Plan 2014.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly followed the lawmakers as they took their tour in Niagara County.