OLCOTT, N.Y. (WIVB) — “I don’t think the water is going to get over this wall,” said Donald Pohl, from Newfane, who is coming to the Lake Ontario shore to check on the water level.
Pohl says he remembers how high the water came up in the 1940s and says he thought it was pretty bad then. The wall he’s talking about seeing now is a man-made berm, considered a living shoreline.
Many hope the water stays below it as those living along the lakeshore have seen significant damage over the last few months. People we’ve talked to have lost 15 to 20 feet of property, spending thousands of dollars trying to protect their homes from the rising lake level. The town supervisor is estimating the damage to be around $7.48 million so far.
“I can see where these houses on the low ground are in trouble here,” said Pohl.
“There’s certainly some anxiety created by the lake levels,” said John Syracuse, a Niagara County legislator.
The Niagara County officials are discussing what can be done now to reclaim lost land to Lake Ontario erosion.
“We’re trying to harden and take back our shoreline,” said Syracuse. “We’re fighting and trying to be proactive with what’s happening with the lake levels.”
“Because there is an emergency, we have an opportunity so let’s take it and turn it into a positive,” said Dean Lapp, the Niagara County Highway Commissioner.
That positive is extending the shoreline. County officials are doing that by bringing in heavy equipment like this long arm excavator.
“We can reach out further,” explains Lapp. “We can create more of an under break before the shoreline. We have good feelings behind how it’ll work.”
Right now, the Niagara County highway officials are tapping into their budget to work on this project hopeful the state will pick up the tab later.
“It’s a long term project; it’s not short term,” said Lapp. “If you look at this event it’s a really slow moving disaster. Disasters are important to people in them but recovery is also important.”
And that’s why the officials say they will remain resilient for the people who living along the lakeshore.
“We are doing everything we can to keep these people in their homes.”
Restaurants, shops and other businesses remain open in Olcott despite the flooding. The owner of Park Place restaurant even said that she’s seen an increase in people from out of town stopping by to look at the shoreline.