New York is seeking compensation for flood damage in Lake Ontario shoreline communities in a lawsuit against the international body that regulates waterways between the United States and Canada, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.
Cuomo said the International Joint Commission must compensate New York for damage to homes and businesses during floods this spring and in 2017. The Democratic governor said the state repeatedly called on the commission to maximize outflows into the St. Lawrence River to drain flooded lakefront areas, but the commission failed to do so.
“They have been wholly unresponsive and they have taken no action that has made the situation any better,” Cuomo said. “We had dialogue for two years from 2017 to 2019.”
Cuomo said the cost to the state from the two floods “will be easily over $1 billion when all the numbers are accounted.”
Cuomo and numerous other elected officials have blamed the flooding on flaws in the commission’s new plan for regulating water levels, known as Plan 2014 although it was enacted in 2017. The commission and outside experts have said excessive precipitation, not the regulating plan, caused the flooding.
The plan requires the commission to balance various interests affected by the water levels in the lake and river, including property owners, the shipping industry and wildlife habitats. Releasing more water through the Moses-Saunders Power Dam at Massena to ease flooding along Lake Ontario would have exacerbated severe flooding in communities downstream, the commission has said.
A commission spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit or Cuomo’s assertions Wednesday.
Cuomo acknowledged that the lawsuit will be an uphill battle, given that international entities like the commission are shielded from litigation under federal law. He called it a “last resort” and a “cry for help from the state of New York and our expression of frustration that they have done absolutely nothing to help New Yorkers deal with this situation.”
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