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As NYPA’s shoreline stabilization project expires, landowners call for its continuation

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MASSENA — A decade after the New York Power Authority undertook a project to stabilize the shoreline for St. Lawrence riverfront properties affected by construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the effort may have to be revisited.

Approximately 38,000 square miles of shoreline was flooded as a result of the St. Lawrence-FDR hydroelectric dam. About 8,000 residents of farms and homes were displaced after the project began in 1953.

In an effort to control erosion for property owners along the St. Lawrence River, NYPA agreed to establish a shoreline stabilization fund as part of its 2003 relicensing settlement to operate the dam. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Adjoining Landowner Stabilization Program in 2005.

The stabilization program is limited to the shoreline within the St. Lawrence-FDR project’s boundary, which spans about 35 river miles within the towns of Waddington, Louisville and Massena.

To date, stabilization measures have been completed on 37 properties — two in Massena, 22 in Louisville and 13 in Waddington.

A stabilization selection board composed of three citizens appointed by municipal leaders from each township selects the sites from applications submitted to NYPA.

“Applications are selected based on how badly a property owner’s shoreline is eroding,” said Jane B. Lawrence, Waddington’s representative to the stabilization board. “Approximately 40 sites have been stabilized. With a limited amount of money, we can only pick a few each year. There are approximately 20 that are not completed.”

NYPA has undertaken a total of $1.25 million in shoreline stabilization measures for properties in the project boundary. That equates to $125,000 annually from 2004 through 2013.

Of the $1.25 million, all but $2,000 has been committed. The $2,000 will be added to NYPA’s planned contribution in 2014 of $125,000, which will be available to the stabilization board to be designated for shoreline projects at its fall meeting.

Five properties were selected for the upcoming season using funds from 2013 — three in Louisville and two in Waddington — bringing the total of stabilized properties to 42 as of this year.

Mark P. Brouillette, 112 River Road, Waddington, said he has lost nearly 8 feet of shoreline to erosion since he moved onto his property about 10 years ago.

A stabilization project has begun this year on Mr. Brouillette’s shoreline. Planning for the project started in June, he said.

“I am very pleased with the project so far,” he said. “I applied two years ago, and blueprints were completed in June 2013. The project and work and construction began in March and February.”

Mr. Brouillette said he also was pleased to see local contractors working on the project.

Miljan R. Stankovic, of 50 Old River Road, Massena, said that while he was pleased with the project on his property, repairs and upkeep are necessary.

“I moved here in 2005,” he said. “I watch the river every year. The worst-case scenario for the winter is for the ice to thaw for five or six days, and the ice starts moving things along the shoreline, grinding everything. The amount of ice will basically determine how much of the shoreline is going to be gone by the end of the winter. This was a very good winter because there was not much motion because of the lack of thaws, as opposed to other previous winters.”

Since Dr. Stankovic’s shoreline was stabilized in 2012, he said, his shoreline has eroded by 10 feet.

“My property is not affected much, as my house is on a hill,” he said. “I think it is going to take a while, not during my lifetime, but they may have to do something else in the future.”

Dalton P. Foster, of Louisville, who studies the water levels each year and is one of the founders of the International Water Levels Coalition, said that further erosion of stabilized properties is inevitable, and shoreline stabilization should not be a one-time project.

“There is a need for constant shoreline stabilization,” he said. “Before the Seaway was built, most of the land was farmland and lawns. The flooding of the Seaway wasn’t a natural, gradual change. The shoreline has not had a chance to adapt. It has only been 60 years. Considering the Earth’s timeline, that is a very short time.”

Mr. Foster said rising water levels and ice are the biggest contributors to shoreline erosion.

“Ice, when it starts to move, can move anything,” he said.

NYPA spokesman Michael A. Saltzman said that properties already stabilized that are subjected to further “wear and tear” are eligible for reapplication.

“In rare instances where the stabilization has been compromised due to storm action, repairs have been made,” he said. “Adjacent landowners are not prohibited from applying for additional stabilization; however, all applications must be approved and selected by the stabilization board.”

About 20 applications are on file with the Adjoining Landowner Stabilization Board for its consideration. But the project, which was agreed to for an initial term of 10 years, is set to expire next year.

Landowners agree that more work should be done to hold off erosion.

“I think it would be nice for the region to have these projects continue to be able to have erosion prevented,” Mr. Brouillette said.

“I am not an expert,” Dr. Stankovic said. “In my opinion, if they notice there is erosion in a spot, they may want to come and inspect the shoreline every once in a while to see if they can fix it with small funds as opposed to waiting for things to fall apart.”

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