Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is calling on the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to get the ball rolling on a critical project that will prevent dozens of homes from collapsing into Lake Ontario -- a possibility that is getting more real with each passing day. Schumer made his announcement during the a tour of the crumbling shoreline on Oklahoma Beach. During his appearance Schumer said that the effort to reinforce the shoreline at Oklahoma Beach has been acknowledged for 20 years, and that action is needed immediately. When Irondequoit Bay Outlet Bridge was built 20 years ago it was acknowledged and documented that accelerated erosion may put houses in danger, and today that possibility is being realized. Schumer also announced that he will introduce legislative language that will increase the priority of the project, to get it started as quickly as possible. The legislation will be introduced in the House by Congressman Dan Maffei, who has partnered with Schumer on this project.
"Families on Oklahoma Beach are on the verge of literally seeing their homes swept away, and we can't allow that to happen," Schumer said. "The Army Corps of Engineer's has the ability, resources and obligation to reinforce the beach right away and it's time for them to take action."
"The erosion problems at Oklahoma beach have gone on for far too long, and the residents whose homes are in danger deserve this project to get underway as soon as possible," Congressman Dan Maffei said. "I will be making this request in the House, and I know with Senator Schumer as my partner in the Senate we are going to make real and immediate progress to help the homeowners at Oklahoma beach."
During Schumer's announcement he called on Army Corps of Engineers to make reinforcing Oklahoma Beach a top priority. Schumer said that the first step that needs to be taken is a study to determine what the most effective solution would be. Schumer said that the USACE should immediately begin such a study. He said Section 111 of the 1968 River and Harbor Act provides authority for the Corps of Engineers to develop and construct projects for prevention or mitigation of damages caused by Federal navigation work, and that this description fits the Oklahoma Beach case. Such a study could cost up to $100,000 and can be done with funds that have already been appropriated. Once the study is completed and an course of action settled on, Schumer said that the project should be done without requiring local or state governments to share in any of the costs.
Furthermore, Schumer said that he and Maffei will introduce to legislation to direct the USACE to prioritize the project as a backstop in case the USACE doesn't prioritize the project on their own. During his remarks, Schumer described the hardships that dozens of families at Oklahoma Beach are facing as they see something they worked all of their lives for, a home, become at risk of being swept away due to beach erosion. Schumer pointed to the fact that owning a home is a huge economic asset for a middle class family- one that can help a family send their children to college and provide additional economic security. Right now, homeowners on Oklahoma Beach are between a rock and hard place- no one will buy their homes because of the precarious situation of the beach erosion and the families can't afford to just leave their home and move somewhere else.
Dozens of New York families call Oklahoma Beach their home and residence. For years, the community's beach has attracted tourists and families, but the accelerating erosion of the community beach threatens its notoriety as a tourist destination and more importantly as a home for families. Serious erosion of the beach began 20 years ago when the Irondequoit Bay Outlet Bridge was put into place. At the time, government officials acknowledged that the bridge's installation would accelerate the beach's erosion and pledged to ensure that any future erosion would be dealt with by reinforcing the existing beach. Since that time, erosion of the beach has taken place at an rapid pace, putting dozens of homes at risk of being swept away. The state of the beach has deteriorated to a point where a simple rainstorm can bring incredible damage to residents as waves crash into homes and water rises to dangerous levels. Thus far, the Army Corps of Engineers has not made specific plans to reinforce the beach and save these homes.