SODUS POINT — It’s only February, but Lake Ontario water levels already are drawing concern from officials in Sodus Point.
On Monday, the village declared a state of emergency that is in effect for 30 days or until it is rescinded by the village.
The declaration states that the village will take “whatever steps necessary to protect life and property, public infrastructure and provide such emergency assistance as necessary.”
In a Facebook message, Mayor Dave McDowell said the state of emergency “will allow teams to go on private property and assess the existing sandbag walls and break walls.”
He said the access to private properties “will provide the information needed to plan the number of sandbags required to protect the exposed areas to at least 250 feet. It is likely that several areas will be protected as high as 251 feet. In areas where we experienced significant waves in the past, we will use grain bags filled with sand, as they were proven to work very well along Edgemere Drive in 2019.”
McDowell said the village plans to take elevation measures of “every break wall and existing sandbag wall. This will allow for more accurate temporary flood barriers to be constructed.”
The village is ordering nine pumps from the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services that will be delivered to the Wayne County Department of Public Works, where they will be tested.
The mayor said the village also has requested 20,000 sandbags from the state.
McDowell also noted that the first county-wide emergency management meeting on lakeshore flooding was held last week in the village. The gathering included most lakefront towns, county departments and the state departments of transportation and emergency management.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is calling for the lake to rise another inch this month. It’s currently at about 246.5 inches above sea level, according to the International Joint Commission, which regulates water levels in Lake Ontario.
“While I hope this is the case, they have been routinely wrong over the last several years,” he said. “The current monthly forecast (January) shows a 5 percent chance of the water reaching 248.5, almost seven inches lower than 2019. The feeling at our meeting was to hope for the best and plan for the worst.”
“We are not at flood stage yet,” George Bastedo, director of emergency management for Wayne County, said on Tuesday. “Knowing that the lake is higher than this time last year, it is only prudent to begin any pre-flood steps that we can take to ensure that everything is in place when the flooding does begin.”
In 2019, the Lake Ontario shore experienced water levels that eclipsed record levels of 2017, when devastating flooding caused millions of dollars in property damage to homes, businesses and government infrastructure.
The state has awarded the county $41 million for flood-protection efforts under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year.
At its Dec. 17 meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved transferring $1.5 million from its fund balance into a new capital fund as part of its 5 percent match of $30.1 million allocated by the state for the Crescent Beach, Blind Sodus Bay and Port Bay flood mitigation and restoration projects under REDI.
The other seven projects, totaling $11 million, are planned in Sodus Point, Williamson and Ontario, and those governments are coordinating those efforts.