MI - Staying above the potential rising tide: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 4 other organizations and Great Lakes states to look at coastal resiliency

VILLAGE OF WILSON, N.Y. — It’s tough to forget the images from 2017 and 2019. Historic water levels on Lake Ontario that spilled over the shoreline in Niagara County and beyond.

Between the flooding in 2017 and 2019, the cost of damage to the state alone was more than $6 million. On average, homeowners saw $95,000 in damage. Could there be relief on the way? There is finally federal funding coming for a study on coastal resiliency, offering a glimmer of hope.

What You Need To Know

  • The Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study was awarded $500,000 for 2022
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  the eight Great Lake states, along with NOAA, USGS, FEMA, and USEPA will conduct the study
  • The study will look at risks from erosion, flooding, storm events, infrastructure, transportation, and power
  • Niagara County leaders are hoping the tourism industry continues to bounce back to pre-2017 numbers

A picture-perfect day in Wilson, and a marina filled with boats. A drastic contrast to a few years back.

“I don’t think anybody saw 2017 coming,” (R) Village of Wilson Mayor Arthur Lawson said.

Lawson was one of them. He had just taken office, when Lake Ontario rose to historic levels, taking over the shoreline, and more.

“The water came up probably about over a foot onto the pavement here,” Lawson pointed from the dock to the parking lot.”

The devastation seen that year, and again in 2019, certainly hasn’t been forgotten.

But, Lawson says it has offered lessons and created a tighter-knit community.

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Chicago Park District joins city in effort to protect shoreline, CBS Chicago / August 11, 2022

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“Our businesses are open, they are strong, they are thriving,” Lawson said. “That is the most important piece to our puzzle now is to make sure it stays that way,” Lawson said.

There certainly is support in another way in the works.

In April, a fight to get federal funding that started back in 2018, came to fruition. The Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study was awarded a half million dollars this year. Another $600,000 is earmarked for next year. The total cost of the four-year study is estimated at $10.5 million. Great Lakes states must come up with 25% of that.

“We want to learn more about the future so we can be more proactive,” Dave Schulenburg, Chief of the Planning Branch for the US Army Corps of Engineers explained.

We, as Dave Schulenburg, the chief of the Planning Branch for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explains, are made up of the eight Great Lake states, along with NOAA, USGS, FEMA, and USEPA. Together, will take a look at the more than 5,200 miles of shoreline along the five Great Lakes and their connecting channels.

“The state of the science of coastal resiliency along the Great Lakes coast is well behind the state of the science on the Atlantic and Pacific coast,” Dave Schulenburg, Chief of the Planning Branch for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.

At stake is a maritime economy valued at $17.3B, which includes 293,000 jobs (NOAA 2014). A fishing and recreational economy that's estimated at $14.3B, commercial at $55.5M and charter at $105M in sales/revenue (USACE 2014). Not to mention the 4.2 million people that live within two miles of the coast.

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