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Homeland Security

New York National Guard troops continue to respond to Lake Ontario

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard June 18, 2019

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- As water levels in Lake Ontario reached more than 2 feet higher than normal on June 16, the New York National Guard and New York's state military forces had 453 personnel focused on flood control issues around the lake shore.

This included 422 personnel working directly on shoreline issue and 29 personnel involved in support for the mission.

Along with 262 National Guard Soldiers and 57 National Guard Airmen, there were 80 members of the New York Naval Militia on the mission and 54 members of the New York Guard, the state's volunteer defense force.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered 100 troops to state active duty on May 4, 2019, as high rains started water levels in Lake Ontario to increase.

Since then more troops have been brought on duty as water levels in the lake got higher.

High water levels in streams in Ontario and Quebec initially limited the amount of water that could be discharged through the Moses-Sanders Dam at Massena, N.Y. into the St. Lawrence River. Since then the Canadian-US International Joint Commission, which controls water levels in the Great Lakes, has increased the flow of water out of the lake system.

All the water in the Great Lakes runs into Lake Ontario from the Niagara River and over Niagara Falls.

The New York troops have been involved in filling sandbags for emplacement by other agencies and property owners and have also been emplacing sandbags when necessary.

Other state and local government agencies are also making and filling sandbags.

Since the mission began on May 4 Joint Task Force Ontario personnel have filled 284,332 sandbags and emplaced 292,814.

Each sandbag takes about 30 pounds of sand. The bags are stacked in layers with plastic sheeting to form a barrier to keep out water.

It takes about 540 sandbags to create a water-resistant wall 30 feet long and three feet high.

The team has also emplaced 14,055 feet of water-bladder dams designed to protect large areas.

Joint Task Force Ontario is currently configured into 23 strike teams using 72 rental vehicles and 12 military vehicles.

The teams are working out of armories in Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Fort Drum and at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

As of June 14, the personnel on the mission have conducted 257 missions.

With water levels above historic norms, high winds on the lake can cause waves which delay sandbag emplacement missions, task force leaders said.

The New York Naval Militia, whose members serve in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Reserve and volunteer for state active duty missions in addition to federal service, briefly deployed two patrol boats to the Lake Ontario in support of the mission there.

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