WEOS Finger Lakes Public Radio

Veronica Volk

Veronica Volk is the Great Lakes Reporter/Producer for WXXI News, exploring environmental and economic issues, water, and wildlife throughout the region for radio, television, and the web.

Previously, she worked general assignment for the newsroom, covering everything from medical marijuana dispensaries to the photonics industry. She is currently producing and co-hosting a true-crime podcast called Finding Tammy Jo with Gary Craig of the Democrat and Chronicle.

Veronica got her start as an enterprise reporter in the Bronx for WFUV Public Radio, and later became the senior producer of their weekly public affairs show Cityscape. She holds a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Fordham University and is originally from the Jersey Shore, which is nothing like how it is portrayed on MTV.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo made an announcement about Lake Ontario homeowners Wednesday on WXXI’s Connections, saying some money from the resiliency development plan will go to private homeowners.

The governor announced a plan to build back the lakefront in a more resilient way in May. When he did, he said the state was looking to fund large-scale, big-picture projects to protect the lakeshore from flooding and high water levels.

Lewis McCaffery stands on a dock looking out over Seneca Lake.

"Sometimes while you’re doing this job, you do think, 'Wow, I am the luckiest guy to be paid to go out on the lake.' Even though there are some problems on the lake, it’s still wonderful to be out there."

The problems McCaffery is referring to are what he is here to test for.

A renewed effort to fight invasive mussels in the Great Lakes is underway.

Invasive quagga and zebra mussels aren’t new to the Great Lakes. But according to some experts, they’re among the greatest threats to the ecosystem.

Dan Molloy is an expert in aquatic invasive species, especially the quagga mussel.

"Their populations can explode, they eat microscopic plants which are the foundation of the ecosystem, and they’re the only freshwater mussel or clam that can attach to thing."

Since the flooding of 2017, the International Joint Commission has been criticized for mismanagement of Lake Ontario.

Now, in response to some of those criticisms, the IJC is adding two new seats to the board that regulates the outflows of Lake Ontario.

Kevin Bunch is a communications specialist with the IJC.

"The idea here is to make sure that people who live along the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River -- make sure that they have a voice."

Rob Buono is the manager of Bay Side Pub on Lake Road in Webster.

He says between the high water levels on Lake Ontario and a rainy spring and summer, things have been slower than usual, but he’s trying to make the best of it.

"We made up these hats, that say come hell or high water, the bay side is open and that’s been out motto this summer."

Buono says their backyard is under water, but they still have outdoor seating and space for live music and events, so it could be a lot worse.

The Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Alliance has been rallying against lake level management Plan 2014, saying it is responsible for flooding and property damage along the south shore.

In a press release, the Alliance announced they are taking several steps toward legal action against the International Joint Commission, the group responsible for overseeing Great Lakes management.

Specifically, they’re asking President Trump to revoke an executive order that exempts the IJC from lawsuits.

The playground at Goodwin Park is under water in some places. Across the flooded creek that separates the park from Edgemere Drive, pumps are running constantly to keep water out of people’s homes and the street.

Senator Schumer says they’re looking at short term relief for homeowners, business owners, and municipalities. He also vowed to do more.

"We need long term relief so this never happens again."

As Lake Ontario sits at record high levels, lakefront homeowners continue to do what they can to protect themselves and their properties.

Joe Martin lives on Edgemere Drive. He says he’s been hit pretty hard by the flooding, but some of his neighbors have it worse.

"Many people have water in their house. We have wet basements. Trying to keep up with sump pumps so they don’t fail."

Although the weather is currently favorable, with light winds and no precipitation, those living on the shoreline know that can change at any moment.

Bill Deasy is stacking sandbags on the edge of his property in Webster, trying to keep the waves of Lake Ontario at bay.

"I hope the lake stays where it is and my house stays here."

So far the water hasn’t come into his home – yet. But the water is expected to continue to rise over the next one to three weeks, and a change in wind direction is all it would take to bring down this wall of sandbags.

"Every day the lake is different – waves, wind…"

Despite the high water, Sodus Point Mayor Dave McDowell says the village is in good shape for the season.

"We were a lot more prepared this year."

McDowell says they learned a lot from 2017 and have been preparing for potential flooding since January.