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Lake Levels Debated at a Hearing in Rochester
Rochester, N.Y. - People who live along the lake say they know there are always risks of flooding and water damage. They say they accept those risks but worry that changes in lake levels could cause more problems. The International Joint Commission which regulates Lake Ontario water levels has a proposal that would change how frequently levels vary. There could be more highs and more lows to balance the needs of homeowners, boaters, nature conservancies, the shipping industry and others.
Carol and Ray Mack have lived on the lake for 30 years. They built a seawall to prevent flooding and said it will cost them thousands to build another barrier to keep water out if levels are raised.
Frank Bevacqua, the spokesman for the Commission said it isn’t possible to please everyone when it comes to lake levels but he said the board is listening to all concerns and will weigh those opinions when deciding on this new proposal called Plan 2014. Bevacqua said it would slightly increase the risk of flooding for homeowners but would not necessarily mean water levels would be higher than they are now.
The Nature Conservancy supports the plan, saying it would restore the natural cycles in the water, benefitting wildlife and the wetlands.
But homeowners question why the current plan has to be changed when it seems to benefit everyone. Carol Mack said: “We are all living in that range now, we don’t want to see it change.”
Tom Voelkl retired as police chief in Brighton and now lives on the lake. He said changes in lake levels that result in more high water, endangers not just homeowners but communities as well. He said these lakeshore communities depend on tax revenue from these lake homes, and that could be impacted by more flooding of these homes.
Voelkl and Mack presented their concerns to the Commission, as did many other concerned homeowners and others representing boating, nature and other interests.
The Commission will accept public comment until the end of August. Any change would have to be approved by the U.S. and Canadian governments. The Commission hopes to have the plan approved by the end of the year but said there isn't a rush. The goal is to hear from the public, and come up with a plan that benefits and balances the needs of all parties.