WILSON, N.Y. — For the moment, Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey is breathing a sigh of relief, but he knows it might not last.
After all, Lake Ontario didn't start flooding until April last year, and the water already is higher than it was a year ago.
"It will rise very rapidly because it's not just Lake Ontario," he said. "All of the Great Lakes are much fuller than they normally are."
Legislators in lakeshore communities like Godfrey already have been told to prepare to for more flooding.
"We don't know just how much it's going to be," he said.
According to the most recent report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last Friday, Lake Ontario is two inches higher than this time last year. It's expected to rise by two more inches by the end of March. This has local leaders like Godfrey, Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson and the counties' emergency managers on alert.
"We are working to get the pumps again, sandbags ready, start to batten down the hatches before the water starts coming up to protect as many homes and businesses as we can," said Jon Schultz, fire coordinator and director of emergency services for Niagara County.
Last year 40,000 sandbags were used across Niagara County, he said. Damages are totaling more than $5 million and counting. Paperwork for FEMA reimbursements is still coming in as the lake again starts to rise.
"They've identified about 14 municipal sites and about $2.5 million worth of damages," said H. Dale Banker, Orleans County's emergency management coordinator.
Local leaders' message to national leaders is the same: get rid of Plan 2014 and clean out the International Joint Commission.
Meetings between emergency management officials and their respective municipalities are starting as early as this week. Within the next month, local legislators are planning another trip to Capitol Hill to fight Plan 2014.