Waterfront Businesses Face Significant Impact from Lake Ontario Flooding

May 17, 2017

Lake flooding near Rochester last month.
Credit Gov. Cuomo's flickr page

The rain may have stopped, but water levels continue to rise on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the Salmon River.  There’s growing concern about damage to waterfront businesses as the busy summer boating and recreation season gets underway.

Long-time Oswego County residents like Dave White and Janet Clerkin say these water levels are unprecedented…

"I've been with New York Sea Grant for over 30 years, so I've been through the past high-highs and the past low-lows as some refer to it," White said.  "Obviously what is occurring right now is well beyond what any of us have been through or could have imagined."

Clerkin is Oswego County’s tourism and public information coordinator.  She's lived in the area for three decades.

 "We haven't see anything like this with this amount of shoreline damage and high water levels."       

She says several marinas and boat launches have been impacted and are closed due to high water levels.

"So that is definitely impacting the fishing charters in those areas," Clerkin said.  "People are still fishing out of Oswego, and  fishing on the lake is very strong right now.  But the high water level is impacting the ability of boats to get in and out.  Also there is a lot of debris in the waterways."

Clerkin says the impact and damage varies widely, so there’s still plenty to do in unaffected areas.  New York Sea Grant Recreation Specialist Dave White agrees.  That’s why he suggests planning ahead…

"The lake's open for business.  It's a large resource.  But as individuals we a really need to take that next step...we might have to change the boat launch ramp that we normally used.  Or, we might have to talk to our marina operator, when do you think might you be able to get my boat in.  Depending on the structure of the marina, is it fixed docks, floating docks...there's a tremendous amount of variability across the system."

White says it also presents an opportunity to explore other bays or harbors if you’re favorite isn’t accessible or safe.  But he says regardless of where boaters put in, it’s best to proceed slowly…

"They really need to be cautious of how much draft they have,  meaning how far down in the water column is their boat.  They really need to be thinking about their outdrive, the lower unit of their engine to make sure it's not going to hit something.  They really need to be concerned about their wake.  There will be many bodies of water with new speed limits on them to reduce the wake.  

White says boaters may see new speed and size restrictions in place going into Memorial Day weekend as traffic increases.  He also strongly encourages everyone wear a life jacket because submerged docks and other debris struck by a boat could throw passengers overboard.  The concern isn’t going away soon.  Water levels aren’t expected to crest until mid-June.