The State of Emergency in Niagara County because of rising Lake Ontario levels is continuing to get worse. Not only did a powerful rain and wind storm cause problems when it swept through the area on Monday May 1, 2017, but members of the Niagara County Legislature received disappointing news about the power dam that controls water levels.
"The Moses Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence has reduced its output. This is obviously for the protection of the downstream and Montreal area, but that means our lake is going to be rising even higher," said David Godrey, Niagara County Legislator and Community Safety Chairman.
According to Godfrey, the Army Corps of Engineers has predicted that Lake Ontario could rise another eleven inches by the middle of May.
"We could still be dealing with the negative effects of this well into July," said Godfrey.
High water levels have flooded property, washed away some shoreline areas, submerged docks, and threatens to disrupt Niagara County's $50 million fishing industry.
"You start losing sales tax revenue and property value as it is devaluated from all this erosion, who makes up the tax difference?" asked Niagara County Legislator Godfrey.
Dirt barriers and sandbags were being used to try and protect homes in Olcott. Niagara County inmates spent the day filling sandbags with an estimated 30,000 filled since the crisis began.
Many docks are underwater. For fishermen who choose to go out on the lake, there are many obstacles because the high water and heavy rains have washed lots of debris into the lake.
Another big concern is the erosion along the shore. Officials are worried that areas could collapse and they are issuing warnings to people to avoid those areas.
What is causing it?
Many believe Plan 2014 is responsible because it set unrealistic goals to control water levels in Lake Ontario. The International Joint Commission (IJC) issued a press release saying the plan is not causing the high water disaster occurring along the south shore of Lake Ontario. The IJC blames extremely heavy rains for the problem.
Regardless, Legislator Godfrey said he expects the damage to total in the millions when all is said and done.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly traveled to Olcott to see how they were dealing with the worsening situation.