LYONS — The state’s planned $41 million program to protect some of Wayne County’s most valuable property from Lake Ontario’s rising waters is good news to County Administrator Rick House.
However, House said, the next step is getting those flood-mitigation projects off the ground in as timely a manner as possible.
“It’s welcomed, but there are a lot of logistical issues,” House said.
At a special Board of Supervisors session Friday at 9 a.m., supervisors will discuss projects Wayne County will oversee. They also will get fresh information from county officials who attended a meeting on Wednesday in Albany.
Under the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, five projects are getting funding. The county will handle one (Crescent Beach, which serves as a barrier for Sodus Bay), while Wayne County Soil and Conservation will handle the Port, East and Blind Sodus bay-protection projects. Sodus Point is responsible for flood-mitigation initiatives at Sodus Point Park, Wickham Boulevard and Greig Street, as well as the White Birch Campground Wastewater Infrastructure Project.
The towns of Williamson and Ontario are receiving funding for work in their towns as well.
With each project, the state is requiring a 5 percent match, House noted.
“There’s an awful lot of local funding that we’re going to have to provide,” said House.
For the $14.6 million Crescent Beach project, that means a $750,000 county allocation, said House, noting that Soil and Conservation also is responsible for a $750,000 share for the $15.5 million bay-protection initiatives.
House said supervisors will need to determine where to get the $750,000 match. If Soil and Conservation cannot find the matching money, he explained, the county must do so.
Kevin Rooney, the county’s public works director, said he and other Wayne County officials attended the REDI implementation conference in Albany Wednesday, designed to provide more information about how the program will work. Officials from all the communities along the south shore of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River were in attendance as well, he added.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spearheaded the REDI project, met with the officials to explain the program and emphasize that if the various state agencies involved in the project are presenting roadblocks to progress, they should come to him.
In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo said the “projects will realize the state’s vision to sustainably protect and enhance the region’s critical infrastructure, environment and local economies. Working together, we are moving these critical projects forward and helping shoreline communities heal from high water.”
At the REDI implementation conference, Cuomo’s office said participating state agencies introduced an engineering report program to ensure that the environmental assessment process for every single project will be completed by mid-February 2020. To ensure assessments are completed in a timely manner, project sponsors without completed engineering studies will be able to opt in to a centralized state contract.
Rooney said the state wants to see the projects completed within three years, but if high-water conditions cause construction delays, the state would allow extensions.
House and Rooney said Lake Ontario is about 19 inches above the level it was at this time last year. Record water levels returned in 2019, following 2017 flooding that caused millions of dollars in damage.
As for project financing, the county can tap into an account to be set up by the state Dormitory Authority, Rooney learned. Additionally, he said, the local match, or some of it, could be in the form of in-kind services.
Both Rooney and House say the projects are important to Wayne County in a number of ways — from protecting valuable shoreline property to the embayments that support sensitive ecosystems.
Without improvements to the eroding land barriers that protect the bays from Lake Ontario’s wave action, “disastrous” consequences are ahead, House said.