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Plan will endanger Lake Ontario shore

As executive director of Old Fort Niagara, I am very concerned with the International Joint Commission’s proposal to regulate water levels in Lake Ontario in such a manner that will result in higher water, especially during the season of heavy storms. The shoreline of Lake Ontario is very vulnerable to erosion from storms, especially the more violent ones that occur in winter and early spring.

This past spring, we experienced significant damage to the high bank just east of the fort’s protective seawall. Erosion in this area was substantial. The damage was sudden and unprecedented and it is beginning to undermine the protective seawall that protects the entire historic site. Common sense tells us that if the lake level had been higher, we would have experienced even more damage. To raise our breakwater to a level to withstand a higher water level would cost New York State and our taxpayers millions of dollars.

Fort Niagara is almost 300 years old. It is a priceless property with buildings dating back to the early 18th century. The oldest structure, the 1726 French Castle, stands within just a few feet of the Lake Ontario shore. This historic treasure is the oldest building in the entire Great Lakes Basin. It is owned by the people of New York State, yet people from all over the world visit it every year. In 2012, almost 100,000 people visited the site.

It is ironic that the fort has withstood battles and the ravages of time but now faces its most menacing force from the commission’s water level proposal. The idea that raising and lowering lake levels to higher highs and lower lows will theoretically enhance Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River marshland is interesting but totally impractical because it endangers almost the entire length of Lake Ontario shoreline. Not only priceless artifacts like Fort Niagara, but millions of dollars of private, municipal and state properties will be put in danger. I sincerely urge the abandonment of this plan.

Robert L. Emerson

Executive Director

Old Fort Niagara

Youngstown