SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – Among those businesses struggling with record high lake levels and rain along the southern shore of Lake Ontario this year, are those who make their living from water tourism. Businesses that line Little Sodus Bay are having the same problems this year as they had in 2017, the last time the lake level was this high.
As the high waters lapped along the shores of Little Sodus Bay, about a dozen turtles sunned themselves on a small rock jutting out from the shoreline just past the Turtle Cove Resort and Marina. Owner Brian Dibernado said in years past, they’d hang out on dock slips, which are now underwater.
It’s not just the turtles that are out of sync. Dibernado’s business is suffering because of record high lake levels. His boat slips are underwater, so he can’t rent them out. Because the number of boats in the bay is down, he’s lost business from passing boaters. Cabin rentals have slowed. And fewer people are coming to his restaurant. He likens the persistent flooding in the bay to a battle that never seems to end.
“Every time it rains, every time the wind blows from the wrong direction, we’re battling to stay dry, to stay open.” Dibernado said.
The worst part of this is 80% of his business comes between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Dibernado worries about long term impacts flooding could have on a tourism business that is the hallmark of the bay.
“Two years ago, people didn’t know what 2017 meant, what a flood meant in Fair Haven,” Dibernado said. “Now they know, so they have choices to go elsewhere for boating needs. I mean, if you’re around here, there’s plenty of water that has nothing to do with the Great Lakes. So, the day-boaters are going to go somewhere else.”
Fair Haven Mayor James Basile gives credit to the charter boats for sticking with the area despite high waters. But he said even they are impacted by what’s expected to be a season-long speed limit in the bay. And ultimately, non-water businesses are affected as well.
So far, Basile said those businesses are toughing it out and no businesses have closed. But he doesn’t know how much longer that can last, if high water levels persist.
“Because all the businesses we have now we had in 2017, and they toughed it out,” Basile said. “They had a great year in 2018. Not that they recovered from the losses, but at least it put them back. And to have this bounce back in 2019, it was like a kick in the ass.”