As part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Biden last year, Fair Haven will get $10 million dollars for repairs to West Pier on Little Sodus Bay.
The funding was announced in a news release by Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Schumer paid a visit to Fair Haven in 2019 after a rise in the level of Lake Ontario led to damaging flooding.
This funding is a part of the over $17 billion Senator Schumer and Gillibrand secured for USACE as a part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to address the backlog of projects to fortify flood and coastal storm infrastructure. The senators explained that years of weather damage and flooding along Lake Ontario had severely deteriorated the harbor, and its pier and barrier bar were at risk of collapsing. Now, thanks to the senators’ advocacy, the Army Corps will provide the funding needed to permanently repair the Little Sodus Bay Harbor West Barrier Bar and West Pier to protect the property, residents, businesses and tourism economy of shoreline communities like the Village of Fair Haven.
“I worked hard to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Act so we could supercharge job-creating, critical projects like this flood-prevention project in Little Sodus Bay. With these federal funds via the Army Corps, the Village of Fair Haven and Little Sodus Bay Harbor will finally build these protections to give residents the peace of mind and flood protection they deserve,” said Senator Schumer. “I visited Fair Haven in 2019 after another severe flood, in a pattern of far too many that devastated the community, putting their homes, businesses and the area’s beloved tourism industry at risk, and promised I would not stop fighting until Little Sodus Bay Harbor received the funding it desperately needed to protect its community. I thank the Army Corps of Engineers for heeding my call and I will continue to fight tooth and nail to see the permanent repairs completed for the Little Sodus Bay Harbor West Barrier Bar and West Pier.”
“This is a critical investment that will protect Fair Haven’s homes, businesses, and tourism industry for years to come,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I’m proud to have worked to deliver this federal funding to Fair Haven and I’ll keep fighting to ensure that New York’s waterfront and coastal communities have the resources and infrastructure they need to weather any storms that come their way.”
“It is good to know that the West Barrier Bar Pier reconstruction is a priority and will be completed this year using funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to bridge the gap between the original cost estimates and the additional high water damage the pier has seen through this process. I am grateful for the Village of Fair Haven and Cayuga County that Little Sodus Bay channel will be preserved for many years to come,” said the Village of Fair Haven Mayor and Cayuga County Legislator James Basile.
Little Sodus Bay Harbor in the Village of Fair Haven has long been a popular tourist destination for visitors from New York State and across the country. The senators explained that West Pier allows for safe navigation between Little Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario, and protects the adjacent barrier bar, which is vital for the defense of the community in severe weather events and to prevent flooding. Years of strong winds and flooding, however, severely deteriorated the harbor and its fixtures though, putting the structures at risk of failure and collapsing.
In 2019, Lake Ontario’s water levels broke the previous record hitting 248.98 feet above sea level. Communities endured weeks of repeated flooding and erosion and on many lakefront properties, standing water is still present up to about one foot high. The damage from the flooding shut down businesses, damaged homes, property, public infrastructure, and eroded away land and shoreline protections putting the community’s future and vital tourism economy at severe risk.
The senators secured over $17 billion in Army Corps of Engineers funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, including $4 billion for Operations & Maintenance work, through which this project is funded.
A copy of Schumer, Gillibrand’s original joint letter to then Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lieutenant General Todd T. Semonite appears below:
Dear Lieutenant General Semonite,
We write to request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allocate Fiscal Year 2019 Operations & Maintenance funding to repair the West Pier and West Barrier Bar of Little Sodus Bay Harbor in New York State, which recently failed due to years of deterioration and above average water levels on Lake Ontario. The rapid deterioration of the West Pier and West Barrier Bar is a result of years of strong winds and flooding that have caused severe damage to the harbor and many of its fixtures. Without immediate repair, the surrounding towns and villages of Cayuga County could face devastating consequences to its residential communities, local economy, and strong tourism sector.
Located in the Village of Fair Haven, Little Sodus Bay Harbor is a deep draft recreational harbor providing safe passage between Little Sodus Bay and Lake Ontario. Nearly 150 properties worth over $30 million in property value border the bay’s shore line, including residential and vacation homes, marinas, campgrounds, and other recreational facilities. The Village of Fair Haven has long been a popular tourist destination for visitors from New York State and across the country. This has created tremendous opportunity for the area’s small business community, which now contributes to much of the Cayuga County and larger Central New York economy.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, water levels on Lake Ontario are up 6 inches from last month and 15 inches above the normal average for this time of year, raising the risk of flooding in the region. Without the protection of a strong, durable pier and barrier bar, this community and its many economic contributions to New York State may face troubling new realities. Should the channel close down in the event of another flood, which is likely due to rising Great Lakes water levels this year, property values will likely diminish, and local restaurants and shops could suffer significant loss of business—potentially creating both a residential and tourist “exodus” from the Village of Fair Haven and Cayuga County.
Consequently, the breakwall failures that currently exist in Little Sodus Bay Harbor’s West Pier and West Barrier Bar require urgent resources and attention, especially with current above average water levels on Lake Ontario. It is our understanding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains Operations and Maintenance funds which are typically reserved for projects concerning commercial shipping harbors. However, given the severity of the anticipated consequences of any further damage to Little Sodus Bay Harbor and surrounding properties, we respectfully ask that funding be allocated to repair this project in Fiscal Year 2019. We urge you to take this request seriously and help the Village of Fair Haven preserve the vitality of their community.
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