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.

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.

Immigrant rights advocates are calling on Greyhound to stop letting border patrol agents question their riders. The ACLU and other advocacy groups have been urging the bus company to refuse to let agents question passengers about their immigration status.

Iman Abid is with the Genesee Valley Region Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. She says Greyhound has a right to refuse searches without a warrant. She says they're urging them to do so because they believe these stops are unconstitutional.

People are catching record-breaking salmon in Lake Ontario this year. A report from the Department of Environmental Conservation says veteran anglers are reporting some of the best fishing in decades.

Steve LePan is a section head with the DEC for Great Lakes Fisheries.

"It's not just chinook salmon. There are a number of salmon species in the lake that we stock, and so fishing overall for all trout and salmon is also at a record-high level."

LePan credits favorable conditions for the high catch rates.

With increasing threats to the health of Seneca Lake, Senator Pam Helming today announced funding for a new position – the Seneca Lake Watershed Manager.

Joseph Campbell is the president of the Seneca Lake Guardian. He says Seneca Lake has had a lot of stress lately.

"With the flooding we just had, the wastewater treatment plants were overwhelmed, we had raw sewage going into the lake – this is a drinking water resource for over a hundred thousand people."

Across the state, migrant farm workers and advocates are drawing attention to an important issue they say could help them: driving privileges regardless of immigration status. 

At Fifth Frame Brewing on St. Paul Street in downtown Rochester, Carolyn Stiles starts talking to me about her favorite beer.

"I really enjoy a good pilsner, like, a well brewed pilsner," she tells me.

Stiles is part of an ever-growing group of craft beer enthusiasts across the country.

Rochester alone has over a dozen breweries experimenting with different malts, hops, and yeasts to make hundreds of local beers. With this rapid growth, Stiles saw an opportunity to start a beer education and appreciation group – just for women.