Great Lakes
Flooding on the Lake Ontario shoreline

Cuomo announces efforts to boost tourism to take on Lake Ontario flooding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is mad.

Cuomo is ticked that so many businesses and residences along the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River shorelines have been flooded for the second time in three years. He also is angry the state spent $100 million in repairs for flooding in 2017 only to have the damage occur again.

He is upset that businesses along Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River have lost millions in income in both 2017 and 2019.

So on Aug. 1, Cuomo and state Attorney General Letitia James came to Oswego to announce efforts to help people who have suffered through flooding along the shorelines this year. Most plan to boost tourism and bring needed money back into the region, while James said she is looking at legal options — including a lawsuit.

“We are jousting with the IJC (International Joint Commission) and the state is speaking with one voice,” Cuomo said during a stop to Oswego Aug. 1. “We’re united. We have to defend the interests vis a vis the IJC and flooding.”

“Their job is to control the level of the lake — that’s their job — and I understand it’s complicated, a lot of us have complicated jobs, but the level has again hit flood levels,” Cuomo said. “We just went through this two years ago, and we’re right back where we were two years ago. And they have to address it. In the meantime, since we are New York, we’re not just going to sit back and wait for the IJC. We are proactive.”

To bring in more tourism to the area and boost the economy, fishing licenses will not be needed for anyone who wants to try for the big one in Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and lower Niagara River now through Labor Day.

Also, admission fees for all state parks from the Niagara region, along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence, are being cut 50 percent. Camping fees at these parks also are being cut 50 percent.

The Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar also is being given $5.25 million to support the development of cutting-edge technology to save and reuse water to increase fish production. Raising fish is a water-intensive practice and the hatchery currently uses a water flow of 10,000 gallons of water per minute, so the money will go towards improvements to enable the facility to save money while raising more fish for stocking.

Cuomo said the state also is launching a new I Love NY promotional television ad aimed at people in the Northeast, New York state, neighboring states and Canada. The ad focuses solely on Lake Ontario and shows many Oswego sites including the iconic lighthouse, H. Lee White Maritime Museum and people hauling in huge fish from the lake.

And James, as the state’s leading prosecutor, said she is “looking at all options,” including a lawsuit, to help people and the region get back on their feet.

“Lake Ontario and the assets we have in the Upstate region are second to none — and while tourism is way up and it’s a big economic generator, in the wake of the recent flooding in the area we have to get the word out about what we have here,” Cuomo said.

In addition to these efforts, Cuomo said the projects coming out of the multi-agency task force called the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative — REDI Commisson — will not only help repair damage from this year’s flooding, but make the region be able to withstand any future catastrophes.

He said the 2017 flooding was supposed to be a once in a 100 years event. But it happened again in just two years.

“The state has committed $300 million not just to repair on an emergency basis, but to assume that the flooding is going to happen again,” Cuomo said. “That this is not the last high level. And let’s assume this is a new normal and let’s build to deal with that new normal. Resiliency and economic development.”

The REDI Commission includes up to $300 million available for communities impacted by Lake Ontario flooding.

“Our point is very simple: if you are looking for a fantastic, affordable and family friendly vacation - look north to Lake Ontario. We are also building back better and stronger so that we can withstand this new normal of flooding, and that’s what the resiliency and economic development initiative is all about.”

“Lake Ontario is among our most prized majestic natural wonders,” James said. “Although this region has faced some difficult times recently, New Yorkers are resilient.”

New York’s Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River and Thousand Islands regions are estimated to provide $121 million in regional economic benefits from recreational fishing. The past few years have provided record-breaking fishing for several popular species and the 2019 season is, again, providing excellent opportunities along New York’s scenic northern coastline.

Lake Ontario is known as a haven for trophy trout and salmon fishing. In its 2019 rankings, and for the first time ever, Bassmaster Magazine named the St. Lawrence River as the top bass fishing destination in the nation.

While lake levels are expected to remain above average, recent history has proven that fishing in these waters will remain first-rate and appropriate for all skill levels from shore or by boat.

State Parks facilities included in the 50 percent reduced camping and admission fees are:

Lake Ontario — Chimney Bluffs, Fair Haven; Fort Niagara, Four Mile Creek; Golden Hill; Hamlin Beach; Lakeside Beach; Mexico Point boat launch, Oak Orchard, Sandy Island Beach, Selkirk Shores; Southwick Beach; Westcott Beach, Wilson-Tuscarora,

St. Lawrence River — Burnham Point; Canoe-Picnic Point; Cedar Island; Cedar Point; Coles Creek; Dewolf Point; Grass Point; Jacques Cartier; Keewaydin; Kring Point; Long Point; Mary Island; Robert Moses; Rock Island; Waterson Point, Wellesley Island.

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