New York announces “Revive Mother Nature” program and funds 69 Lake Ontario shoreline flood resilience projects with $103 million

Earlier, in the June 15, 2019 issue of REVITALIZATION, we announced the launch of New York state’s Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI). More recently, in the previous issue of REVITALIZATION, we reported on the $133 million that the state had just put into 63 resilience projects.

Rendering of International Pier Project in Oswego, New York.

Now, on October 31, 2019, the money continued flowing, as Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $60 million for St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties to fund 38 resilience projects there, plus another $43 million to advance 31 projects in Cayuga and Oswego counties. We would love to be reporting similarly-meaningful efforts in other states (and countries), but most are still just talking and planning.

In addition, Governor Cuomo recently announced that in next year’s State of the State address, he will introduce an aggressive nation-leading habitat restoration initiative, “Revive Mother Nature.” Revive Mother Nature will support critical environmental restoration efforts, like many of the REDI projects announced today, to help make communities more resilient in the face of climate change and severe weather, while also restoring and increasing fish and wildlife habitat.

It was also announced that the REDI Commission will hold an implementation conference in Albany on November 20, 2019. The conference will provide REDI funding recipients with information about project implementation, including permitting and environmental reviews, as well as an opportunity to meet with relevant state agencies to ensure REDI projects are implemented as soon as possible. The Governor also announced that up to $8 million will be available to qualifying secondary homeowners as part of the overall $20 million homeowner assistance package to help all members of the lakefront communities recover from flood-related damages.

New Yorkers living and working along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have endured extensive damages from record flooding and the state is continuing to step up to help,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am pleased to announce these 38 REDI projects for St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties, which will help these communities rebuild and recover after devastating losses while ensuring the area’s infrastructure and habitats are better prepared and more resilient in the face of future high water levels.

Since record high water levels in 2017, New York State has committed more than $100 million to rebuild communities along the Lake Ontario shoreline that were devastated by flooding, only to again experience record high water levels and flooding in these same communities this year.

Five REDI regions, comprising eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. The REDI Commission allocated $20 million for homeowner assistance, $30 million to improve the resiliency of businesses, and $15 million toward a regional dredging effort that will benefit each of the eight counties. The remaining balance, $235 million, has been allocated towards local and regional projects that advance and exemplify the REDI mission.

To identify projects, over the course of three months, REDI organized 25 stakeholder and community meetings and workshops with hundreds of local residents, convened more than 15 planning committee meetings, and directed New York State agency and engineering experts to expend thousands of hours to evaluate more than 500 projects proposed by communities. The projects comprise a range of at-risk assets, including shoreline stabilization, public health and safety, critical water and wastewater infrastructure, marinas and harbors, and land loss/value, among other priorities, with an emphasis on natural or nature-based features and green infrastructure.

Examples of projects funded in each of the counties:

St. Lawrence County

  • A $11 million project to address infiltration and inflow issues at the Village of Waddington’s Wastewater Collection and Treatment Facilities includes improvements for the collection system, including replacing or relining the existing clay tile sewer mains and constructing new stormwater mains. The proposed improvements for the treatment system include a new headworks building and associated equipment, new sludge storage tanks, drying bed improvements, manual sludge dewatering equipment, clarifier modifications, conversion of the existing gaseous chlorine to liquid chlorine for disinfection, new outfall, building renovations, demolition, yard piping, emergency generator, and additional site work;
  • $4,875,000 for the Morissette Park and City Dock Project in the City of Ogdensburg, including potentially elevating and adjusting its location, will ensure continuous public water access to this important local economic driver;
  • $2,100,000 for the Northumberland Street Bridge Project in the Town of Morristown will open the channel under the structure, allowing for improved flow and passage of aquatic biota;
  • The $1,295,000 Fort De La Presentation Trail Project in the City of Ogdensburg will address erosion and flooding at this site adjacent to the St. Lawrence River. The installation of shoreline stabilization measures and raising the trails will increase accessibility and ensure this site remains a local destination for visitors; and,
  • The $430,000 Chippewa Bay Boat Launch Project in the Town of Hammond will protect this local business asset by replacing fixed elevation docks with floating docks and slips, elevating fuel pumps, tanks, and other infrastructure to protect assets from high water levels, and installing stabilization measures at the water’s edge to safeguard infrastructure.

Jefferson County

  • The $5,450,000 County Road 57 and Point Peninsula Project in the Town of Lyme includes raising the road and installing shoreline stabilization measures to ensure continuous access for residents and emergency responders;
  • The $3,750,000 Riverwalk Project in the Village of Clayton includes raising the height of the Riverwalk in areas that are below flood stage. This would provide flood protection for an area that includes 11 properties in a registered historic district and serves as a commercial hub for this community;
  • The $2 million Upper and Lower James Dock Project in the Village of Alexandria Bay will improve the resiliency of this facility, a critical local economic driver and waterfront business by replacing fixed elevation docks with floating docks, relocating fuel pumps, tanks, and permanent structures to higher elevation, and installing stabilization measures at the water’s edge;
  • The $1 million East End Park Project in the Village of Cape Vincent will address damage caused by erosion to the existing seawall and docks. Mitigation measures include resetting the top tiers of the limestone portion of the seawall and raising the wall system, constructing a quarry stone apron behind the seawall, replacing sidewalk adjacent to the seawall, replacing the underdrain, and replacing dock decking, among other improvements; and,
  • The $160,000 Seawall Project near the water treatment facility in the Village of Sackets Harbor will install additional shoreline protection measures and protect the water intake at this facility. This project will bolster the coastal resiliency of the water treatment plant and surrounding area.

Shoreline communities have faced tremendous challenges in recent years. That’s why we have taken aggressive action to help local governments, businesses, and homeowners with state support to improve resiliency and address the impact of flooding,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “This targeted funding for projects in St. Lawrence and Jefferson counties will address infrastructure needs to ensure sustainability long-term. These critical efforts will help to combat devastation from extreme weather events, strengthen our economy, and enhance quality of life for residents.

Cayuga and Oswego counties

  • $6,500,000 for the International Pier Project in the City of Oswego to develop a waterfront pedestrian-friendly space with linkage to a city walking trail. The project includes installation of water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, and electrical services, a gateway arch, vehicle parking and controls, relocation and replacement of boat slips, and protection of pier bulkhead and sidewalls for resilience;
  • $6,100,000 for the Wright’s Landing Marina Project in the City of Oswego to elevate the marina and improve the resilience of the boardwalk, landscaping, “The Boathouse” restaurant, fire pit, and more;
  • The $4,800,000 County Route 89 Project in the Town of Oswego, will extend the existing sanitary sewer network to new housing for SUNY Oswego, as well as to the Lake Shore commercial district, collecting wastewater from 78 properties. This project will provide a durable stormwater collection system for this community, improving the resiliency of adjacent properties and assets;
  • $2,700,000 for the West Bay Road Storm Sewers Project in the Town of Sterling will install 1.8 miles of storm sewer to collect and manage stormwater along West Bay Road, addressing significant erosion and sediment carried into the bay;
  • $1,600,000 for the Sterling Nature Center Trail and Parking Area Project in the Town of Sterling to upgrade the Sterling Nature Center. The project will minimize impacts from Lake Ontario by using porous pavement, sidewalks, rain gardens, wetlands, and more, and will restore McIntyre Road, the only access point for emergency responders to this section of lakeshore;
  • $1,500,000 for the Phillips Park Walkway Project in the Village of Fair Haven to remove an existing boardwalk, repair and replace a retaining wall, install appropriate anchors, and construct a new boardwalk in compliance with ADA standards. The boardwalk will be used for fishing and other recreational uses.
  • The $1,500,000 Ontario Shores Drive Project in the Town of Sterling will move, raise, and repave .6 miles of dirt road, ensuring residents and emergency responders have access to homes along the beach;
  • The $600,000 West Barrier Bar Park Project in the Village of Fair Haven will protect the park and ensure public access by repaving the asphalt roadway and the parking lot. Increasing the resiliency of this roadway and the park are critical to protecting a nearby marina on the barrier bar;
  • $500,000 for the Camp Hollis Project in the Town of Oswego will address shoreline stabilization to prevent septic system overflow in order to protect public health and safety of participants in the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau summer camp program; and,
  • The $480,000 Joe Fultz Boulevard Project in the Town of Scriba will protect the roadway and nearby homes. The project will first conduct an ecological assessment to identify proper drainage and connectivity between the lake and the nearby marsh, as well as dredging and improved road culverts.

James Weatherup, Chairman of the Oswego County Legislature, said, “Oswego County has nearly 40 miles of shoreline on Lake Ontario. A good section of that is the eastern shore, the area of Lake Ontario that receives the greatest damage when you couple high lake levels with wind and storm surge. Conditions over the last few years have caused significant hardship for both our public and private landowners. The generous assistance provided by Governor Cuomo and the REDI Commission will help to mitigate much of the damage we have endured while helping us avoid or at least minimize future high water problems. On behalf of all the public and private Lakeshore community members in Oswego County, we are extremely grateful for the assistance!

Thirty million dollars of REDI funds have been set aside for the Lake Ontario Business Resiliency Program, which will be administered by Empire State Development (ESD). Under the program, ESD will provide grants of up to $200,000 to eligible applicants who experienced direct physical flood-related damage due to the high-water levels from Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in 2019. Eligible applicant types are expected to include small businesses, not-for-profit organizations, farms, homeowners’ associations and owners of rental properties.

Under the Program, grants will be available to reimburse up to 50 percent of an eligible applicant’s capital improvement project that is designed to strengthen their business against impacts of future flooding and make their business more resilient in nature. Each project must also receive matching support from a local government totaling at least 5 percent of state funds to be awarded under the Program. Local contributions are expected to include, but not be limited to, certain tax exemptions offered by Industrial Development Authorities, local government waivers of the costs of ordinarily due permits and fees, and direct expenditures by local governments on project-related infrastructure.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow, said “My sincere thanks to Governor Cuomo for his unwavering commitment to our shoreline communities in need of help. The projects identified by the REDI commission are crucial to our recovery and will enable us to not only repair and replace critical infrastructure and damaged property, but to build back smarter and stronger than ever before. This is what leadership looks like.

Many of the REDI projects incorporate green infrastructure or natural or nature-based features and will be designed to have no or minimal environmental impact. Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, environmentally beneficial, and resilient approach to managing wet weather impacts. While conventional stormwater infrastructure, such as piped drainage and water treatment systems, are designed to move stormwater away from the built environment, green infrastructure reduces and treats stormwater at its source while delivering environmental and economic benefits without destroying habitat or disrupting natural features.

All images courtesy of the Office of Governor Cuomo.

Learn more about the REDI program.

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