Inmates, volunteers boost effort to protect against flooding in Fair Haven

May 9, 2017

The continued swelling of Lake Ontario is offering little relief to shoreline residents in central New York. Water levels on Lake Ontario have risen more than 9 inches since May 1, and are at the highest level since the 1950s, before water levels started being regulated.

Despite the continued threat of flooding, homeowners in the Cayuga County village of Fair Haven are encouraged by the unexpected amount of help they are getting.

Fair Haven Mayor James Basile was able to enlist inmates from the Cayuga County Jail after declaring a state of emergency in the village. He says they have been a huge asset in filling some 20,000 sandbags.

"That takes sometimes anywhere between 6, 8, up to 10 people," Basile said. "That would have just strained our volunteers even more, so having the inmates has been it's a resource that I don't know everyone knows is is available in a emergency like this or a disaster."

Neil Rivenburgh with the Cayuga County Emergency Management Office says most of the help is coming from organizations like the Christian Disaster Service, Mennonite Disaster Service and area volunteer fire departments.

"We're 40-plus strong today. We've been averaging 80 a day in volunteers helping out," Rivenburgh said. "So the support from our county and the neighboring communities that aren't impacted has been great."

Fair Haven resident Tom Kirsch is watching the waters of Little Sodus Bay continue to rise to levels he says he has not seen in 30 years.
Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News

Volunteers delivered sandbags to Tom Kirsch's home.

"Lot of good guys working real hard," Kirsch said. "Good neighbors."

But even with the sandbags Kirsch's home is still facing the brimming water of Little Sodus Bay, which has submerged his dock and is showing no signs of receding.