Governor Kathy Hochul announced the start of construction on a series of flood resiliency projects in Jefferson County. The four projects breaking ground along the Town of Alexandria and Village of Alexandria Bay were awarded more than $3.8 million in grant funding through the State's Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative.
"Many waterfront communities along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River have faced tremendous challenges as a result of strong, devastating floods and storms, and these projects will help them build back better, smarter and more resilient than before," Governor Hochul said. "We are laser focused on adapting and hardening our state's infrastructure to prepare for whatever Mother Nature throws our way. The projects breaking ground today in the Village of Alexandria Bay and the Town of Alexandria will protect these communities from future storms and high-water events, helping ensure their prosperity for future generations."
"Following significant flooding along the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, New York took action by launching the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative," said Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado. "As part of this initiative, today we announced four new projects that will restore docks and the waterfront in the Village of Alexandria Bay and the Town of Alexandria and mitigate against future damage."
The Village of Alexandria Bay and Town of Alexandria experienced devastating flooding in 2019, when the waters of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River rose to historic levels. The extensive flooding resulted in significant damage to both the Town and Village's public infrastructure, including docks, boat launches, wharfs, and water treatment facilities. Dock closures are hard on a community which thrives on a tourism-based economy and relies on recreational boaters and anglers visiting the region. The Village of Alexandria Bay was awarded a total of $3.36 million by the REDI Commission for three projects. The Town of Alexandria was awarded $455,000 to complete their REDI project. Today's announcement includes:
1. Upper and Lower James Street Docks, $2 million: The Upper and Lower James Street docks are a vital access point into the Village of Alexandria Bay, not only for the residents of the approximately 20 islands within the Village boundaries, but also for island and waterfront residents in areas outside of the Village limits. The docks serve as a gateway for visitors and tourists from the St. Lawrence River as the main portal for those arriving by boat, allowing direct access to the James Street business district. During the flooding of 2019, the docks were underwater and inaccessible to boaters. To ensure that the docks may remain open in future high-water events, the entire Lower James Street Dock and a section of the Upper James Street Dock will be replaced with a new floating dock system. The remaining Upper James Street Dock will be elevated above flood level.
2. Scenic View Park Pier, $1.1 million: The Village's Scenic View Park is a three-acre public park located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, and includes a pavilion, a public beach, a community playground, as well as a concrete wharf along the river. The wharf is 200 feet in length, is one of the largest docking locations within the community and is the sole public location in the Village of Alexandria Bay that can accommodate larger boats and cruise ships. In 2019, the wharf was completely submerged, causing the structure to become severely deteriorated and damaged in several areas making portions of the wharf unusable. Through the REDI program, sections of the wharf will be repaired or completely replaced mitigating future damage and allowing continued use when water levels are above average. The project will also include additional site upgrades including new concrete walkways, installation of an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant lift for wheelchairs and strollers, and lighting along wharf and walkway.
3. Village Water Treatment Plant, $260,000: The Village of Alexandria Bay's Water Treatment Plant provides potable water to commercial properties, the River Hospital, and residents within the Village as well as six outside water districts in the Towns of Alexandria, Orleans, Clayton, and Theresa. Due to its proximity to the St. Lawrence River, during high water events the water treatment plant is within inches of being flooded. Both the treatment plant and wet well are exposed to waves that can easily reach two feet in height, overtopping the wet well. Flooding of the wet well and water treatment plant would compromise water quality and availability. Flood mitigation measures for this project include installing a new concrete slab in the water filtration plant so the finished floor elevation is above the historic high-water levels. A new precast section will also be added to the raw water wet well so it is above high water levels. This project also includes the installation of riprap to protect the water filtration plant from wave action, and exterior wall improvements.
4. Goose Bay Boat Launch, $455,000: The Town of Alexandria owns and maintains the Goose Bay Boat Launch. The launch is popular with the residents and visitors of Goose Bay, as well as hunters and anglers, due to the easy access to the St Lawrence River. The boat ramp was submerged under water as a result of elevated river levels in 2019 and cannot be used during high water conditions due to the low bulkhead elevation. Alternately, during low water conditions, the boat ramp does not extend far enough into the Bay to launch boats safely and the area at the end of the ramp is too shallow and needs to be dredged. Resiliency measures to be implemented at the Goose Bay Boat Launch include raising the concrete bulkhead, dredging at the end of boat ramp, and installing a new boat ramp. Additionally, the existing parking area will be enlarged, and a pedestrian walkway will be created.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner and REDI Commission Co-Chair Basil Seggos said, "Alexandria Bay is a regional treasure that attracts residents and visitors to the beauty and abundance of its waters. When those same waters caused extensive damage to shoreline communities throughout the region, New York State took action through REDI to help protect homes, businesses, and critical municipal assets like parks, water infrastructure, and marinas damaged by record-high water levels. These newest projects now breaking ground will improve the resiliency of the region and are a testament to New York's continued commitment to building stronger, more climate resilient communities along the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario."
New York Secretary of State Robert Rodriquez said, "Like so many lakefront communities, the Village of Alexandria Bay and town of Alexandria are no strangers to extreme flooding caused by the rising waters of Lake Ontario. These REDI-funded projects will foster tourism and outdoor recreation, and ensure that the Department of State's investments through our Local Waterfront Revitalization Program improve access to and from the waterfront and the Village downtown areas."
Environmental Facilities Corporation President and CEO Maureen A. Coleman said, "Supporting and protecting the Village's water treatment facility is of paramount importance for the public health of residents and the tourism industry that thrives in Alexandria Bay. EFC is proud to advance the critical water treatment plant project with a $260,000 grant to help ensure the Village is better prepared for future flooding. The project milestone announced today, prioritized by local leaders, is evidence of Governor Hochul's sustained commitment to helping New York's coastal communities build back stronger and more resilient from repeated high-water events. By providing grants to New York State municipalities in support of the Governor's REDI program, EFC can assist in the protection of critical infrastructure that contributes to the long-term resiliency of our shorelines."
State Senator Patty Ritchie said, "Alexandria Bay is one of the Thousand Islands' premier destinations, offering endless opportunities for boating, fishing, enjoying the Village's downtown or simply taking in the breathtaking scenery along the St. Lawrence River. I am grateful for the state's investment into these important projects, which will help more residents and visitors enjoy all the area has to offer."
Assemblymember Mark Walczyk said, "As the gateway to the Front Yard of America, 'Alex Bay' is an economic and cultural hub that is also home to hardworking citizens who deserve these updated services, such as improvements at the water treatment facilities and the bay with the upgraded boat ramp, kayak launch, and dock system being made at Goose Bay, Upper and Lower James dock and at Scenic View Park Pier. These types of REDI projects are a smart investment for the future and viability of our region."
Jefferson County Chairman William Johnson said, "Through the REDI program, New York State continues to reaffirm their commitment to our region. Each of the projects breaking ground today make a significant impact to these tourist driven communities, helping to ensure the Village of Alexandria Bay and Town of Alexandria can continue to thrive even in times of high water and flooding."
Village of Alexandria Bay Mayor Steven Jarvis said, "The Village of Alexandria Bay draws visitors from near and far to the area. Our community and it's businesses rely on this tourist activity. When our shoreline infrastructure is unusable as it was during the flooding of 2019, it negatively affects the entire region. We are thankful for the partnership with the State, and the support of the REDI Team in helping to make sure that critical infrastructure, like the Upper and Lower James Street Docks and the Scenic View Park wharf remain open and accessible even in times of high water."
Town of Alexandria Supervisor Brent Sweet said, "The Goose Bay Boat Ramp project includes extremely important improvements for the Town of Alexandria residents and visitors who utilize the St. Lawrence River and Goose Bay shoreline year round. In the spring, summer, and fall, the river access area is busy with recreational boaters and anglers. In winter months the facility is used heavily by winter sports and nature enthusiasts enjoying opportunities for ice fishing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and much more going on in Goose Bay. The taxpayers and general public have strongly voiced their support of the project and its components, and we are excited to see this project get underway."
In response to the extended pattern of flooding along the shores of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, New York State established REDI to increase the resilience of shoreline communities and bolster economic development in the region. Five REDI Regional Planning Committees, comprised of representatives from eight counties (Niagara and Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego, and Jefferson and St. Lawrence) were established to identify local priorities, at-risk infrastructure and other assets, and public safety concerns. Through REDI, the State has committed up to $300 million to benefit communities and improve resiliency in flood prone regions along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.
Since the creation of the State's REDI program in the Spring of 2019, 134 REDI funded local and regional projects are underway or completed, including 56 projects in the design phase, 37 projects in the construction phase, and 41 projects completed.
The Town of Alexandria and the Village of Alexandria Bay were also awarded $618,000 through an Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) grant administered by the Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, which will complement these REDI projects. The municipalities have designed and are currently installing streetscape improvements such as sidewalk repairs, benches, lights, trash receptacles, and bike racks along several streets (Fuller Street, Church Street, James Street, Anthony Street, and Walton Street), the publicly-owned Scenic View Park, the publicly-owned Captain Thomson Park, the Village Municipal Office, and others. These improvements are expected to enhance connectivity to and from the waterfront and the Village's downtown. Repairs and improvements are also underway to two publicly-owned docks and boat launches located at Holland Street and Crossman Street, which will upgrade aging and degraded infrastructure. Together, these projects will further connect the Village's downtown to the new Riverwalk, facilitating low-impact development, improving river access, walkability, and amenities for local residents, business owners, and tourists.