Landowners Threaten Lawsuit Over Lake Ontario Flooding

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SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) – A coalition of New York property owners plans to sue the International Joint Commission (IJC), the international body that regulates water levels on Lake Ontario.

At the first meeting of the newly formed Lake Ontario Landowners Association, a crowd of more than 100 packed into a restaurant in Pulaski and cheered on the founder Jim Shea as he railed against the IJC and its board members.

The first meeting of the Lake Ontario Landowner’s Association gathered to discuss their plans for a class action lawsuit against the IJC, which regulates water levels on Lake Ontario. CREDIT PAYNE HORNING / WRVO NEWS

“We’re here today because our government representatives and public administrators promised after 2017 that this would never happen again failed to provide oversight and monitor – they need to do their jobs,” Shea said to applause. “You want to destroy our properties, you’re going to pay the price for it.”

Shea is trying to rally homeowners and business owners along Lake Ontario’s shoreline to raise $1 million for a lawsuit against the IJC. They want compensation for flooding damages caused this year and in 2017 and the replacement of Plan 2014, the IJC’s management plan.

A large crowd of landowners along Lake Ontario gathered in Pulaski recently to rally for legal action against the government as they deal with damaging flooding to their properties. PAYNE HORNING / WRVO NEWS

The strategy is to sue under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the government from taking private property without just compensation. It’s not unprecedented. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that temporary flooding induced by a government entity may entitle private landowners to compensation.

This isn’t the only potential legal action the IJC is facing. New York state recently threatened a lawsuit for the commission’s management of lake levels.