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.

New commissioners with the International Joint Commission were in Greece Tuesday to visit the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

Laura Jacket lives in North Greece, right on the water, and all year she’s been watching the lake climb slowly higher.

"If you go up right now up to Edgemere Drive and Long Pond and Lowden, you’ll cry if you care about it at all. Because the road is shut down and the water is coming through people’s houses and it’s up to my house now on North Drive."

Business along the lake shore are trying to get the word out that they are open for business, despite high water levels.

Allison Mayer is the manager of Mayer's Marina. The business is on Lake Road in Webster, right between the Irondequiot Bay and Lake Ontario. She says they took a hit in the 2017 floods, but also that they were better prepared when the water started to rise this year.

Around Sodus Point you can already see the effects of high water levels. Take Arney’s Marina on the bay -- their service dock is underwater, and a pump runs constantly to keep water out of the building.

Mayor Dave McDowell says they filled hundreds of sandbags Wednesday and are going to start setting them up around the village next week. He's also declaring a state of emergency this week in order to set up equipment like pumps and hoses throughout town.

The south shore of Lake Ontario might become a national marine sanctuary.

Ellen Brody is the Great Lakes regional coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

"In many ways," she said via phone, "sanctuaries are like national parks in that our mission is to protect a resource."

She said this effort was spearheaded by the counties along the shore of Lake Ontario, which pushed for recognition and protection of the lake’s shipwrecks.

There are 13 other marine sanctuaries in the U.S. – but only one in the Great Lakes.

Marijuana legalization has been left out of the state budget, but advocates say not all hope is lost.

Mary Kruger is the executive director of Roc NORML, an advocacy group fighting for the legalization of marijuana.

"We were obviously disappointed that it was left out of the budget," she said via phone, "because we want legalization to happen as soon as possible."

Sodus Point Mayor Dave McDowell looks out at the breakwall that separates Lake Ontario from Sodus Bay.

"There’s huge holes in it," he says. "There’s big sections that are missing now."

The eastern breakwall has been deteriorating under the stress of lake waves for years. McDowell says if it breaches, houses along the bay will be vulnerable to the full force of the lake.

"Water is one of the most powerful forces of nature. And we can only do so much," McDowell says.

The commission that oversees the Great Lakes still has vacant positions, and Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for congress to vote on current nominees.

The International Joint Commission has been around for more of a century, and this is the second longest time its been unable to function due to empty seats.

U.S. Chair Lana Pollack says it's extremely unusual.

"Oh, it's awful," she said via phone. "And very frustrating."

Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are calling on officials to reduce the higher than average water levels on Lake Ontario, but officials who manage the water regulation say that might not be possible.

A recent report from the US Census Bureau shows New York is one of 9 states with decreasing populations.

Although the nation’s population is increasing overall, New York's is in decline and has been for years.

Kent Gardner is the Chief Economist at the Center for Governmental Research.

He says there's a reason people are leaving New York for places like Florida and Texas.

"Certainly there are some basic causes we can point to over a long period of time, such as warm weather and low taxes."

According to the US Census Bureau, the nation’s population is increasing overall. But not all states are growing.

New York suffered the biggest population dip of any state between July 2017 and July 2018, losing almost fifty thousand people.

Sandra Johnson, a demographer and statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau says "many states have seen fewer births and more deaths in recent years," which may contribute to their population decline.

Eight other states, as well as Puerto Rico, also suffered population losses.