Cobourg Lakefront Properties being Damaged by Floods

Cobourg residents with properties fronting onto Lake Ontario are asking for the Town’s help with sandbags. Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin and Director of Works Laurie Wills have responded but so far the only help offered is “Unfortunately all we can do is provide the materials but not the labour.”  The official numbers for lake levels show that the lake level is at higher levels than in 2017 and has peaked – although it has not yet dropped.  The problem is that with high winds, the shoreline is getting damaged.  Some property owners are losing land and flooding is occurring at the Marina and along the West beach boardwalk.  Average levels only tell part of the story – winds cause levels to go even higher.

Flood warning at West Beach
Flood warning at West Beach

Many people are blaming Plan 2014 for the floods – including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo who blasts the  International Joint Commission who created and manage it.

Here are some excerpts from his letter to them (full letter in link below):

“The International Joint Commission (IJC) has no excuse for its failure to prepare for adequately managing the high-water levels Lake Ontario has experienced and continues to experience this year.
– – – The IJC has acknowledged that its actions, or lack thereof, have served to protect commercial shipping at the expense of riparian land-owners.
– – – Following the 2017 flooding, the IJC knew or should have known of the significant potential for future flooding events, but failed to exercise the forethought to protect against the devastating impacts of flooding.
– – – The IJC must adopt a fairer course to ensure that the protection of the public on both sides of the Lake and the River are, at all times, its highest priority.
In light of the devastating flooding occurring, the State of New York demands that the IJC reimburse New York for its costs, and make additional funds available for resiliency projects and other protective measures made necessary by the IJC’s acts and omissions.”

Plan 2014 does allow for higher (and lower) water levels and is controversial – see links below.

On Saturday, I shot a video and some stills – see below.  I have also updated the graph showing PEAK levels – these are higher than the official average numbers.  But you can see that the West Beach Boardwalk was flooded and left behind debris.  The work done with large rocks after the 2017 flood seems to be working at Monk’s Cove and I understand that some other west end lakefront properties took similar action.

The Beach is flooded and a health warning has been issued to stay out of the stagnant water.  Tourism will no doubt be affected but the cooler weather has meant there are few beach visitors anyway.  It remains to be seen whether the beach will be in good shape by the July 1st weekend and the Waterfront Festival ($5/day for Rotary tent and free for Lions area in Victoria Park).

The Marina is operating although there is no electric power to any boats.

Water Level Graph


Provided by Water Street resident.

Email from  Deputy Mayor to Director Laurie Wills – June 14

Hi Laurie, 
I just visited a few homes on Water Street (181 & 197). They contacted public works this morning to ask for sand bags as they are losing lakefront property daily. Not sure that the sand bags would help but they would like to get access to some to protect what they still have. Are there any staff on the weekend that could help? Please let me know as I said that I would try to help. Thanks.

Reply from Laurie Wills

Hi Suzanne, hopefully they got through to our public works dispatch to request the sand and bags. Unfortunately all we can do is provide the materials but not the labour.
I will forward the request to our on call lead hand to ensure he got the request.


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Ken Strauss
19 June 2019 10:42 am

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers ( ) lake water levels are now almost three feet above the long term monthly average for June and 9 inches higher than a month ago.

John Draper
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 June 2019 11:41 am

Note that official reports refer to the average level during a day but because of variations during a day, and waves from winds, peak levels can be even higher.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  John Draper
19 June 2019 12:20 pm

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers website mentioned earlier their reported mean for a particular date is actually an average of the three days around the specified date. So, yes, waves will make the actual high higher.

Old Sailor
19 June 2019 10:14 am

On Sunday I had lunch in Kingston at the Delta Hotel which is right at the waterfront overlooking the harbour. The hotel had sandbags on the ground floor walkway which had already been flooded. No doubt commercial interests will be looking for financial support from flooding as well. It will be interesting to see if class actions develop over mismanagement of Lake Ontario’s water flows.

18 June 2019 6:27 pm

What can I say — the same thing happened in 1998 when the Provence and the Lower Trent Conservation group in Trenton along with the Great Lakes Coalition all denied there were extenuating circumstances along the shore line and only a Modest rise in Lake Ont, levels Try 40 inches + It was not til I found the USA Army core of Engineers report on lake levels that Ont . started to listen . Then they renamed the program no less than 3 times during the application process and all of its requirements I finally contacted the Ont Ombudsman’s office in an effort to nail down the program Contacting the MP & the MPP was as usual
Waste of TIME but we all know that were just afraid to say it

Miriam Mutton
18 June 2019 5:38 pm

See for response to Pete Fisher’s email to Rob Caldwell, Canadian Secretary for International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board. “Plan 2014 did not cause, or meaningfully exacerbate the flooding and associated damages that occurred in 2017.” And further stated, “it is expected that a similar conclusion can be anticipated with regard to the 2019 flooding.”

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
18 June 2019 11:02 pm

Consider the plausibility of that assertion:
The Governor of New York and his research team say that Plan 2014 is causing the problem.
Lake Ontario levels were controlled for 60 years without significant flooding. A new level control plan is implemented and we have flooding in two of the last three years.
Why do you believe Mr. Caldwell contrary to the facts?

Miriam Mutton
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 June 2019 10:00 am

Reading about issues from different viewpoints, I tend to support reports written in terms more respectful of natural systems and with awareness that controlling these systems is going to become increasingly more expensive. Not sustainable in the long term. Better to adapt. I have lived by Lake Ontario for almost as many years as lake levels have been controlled and have seen storms, and flooding, that rival those of recent years. Very concerned the issue is much bigger than Lake Ontario alone, but the entire Greta (Great, I will leave that typo in!) Lakes system and controlling lake levels in Lake Ontario would be like applying a bandage to a crack in a dam wall.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Miriam Mutton
19 June 2019 10:53 am

I prefer to believe reports that respect truth rather than those that twist facts to support an agenda. The level of Lake Ontario has been successfully controlled for over 50 years. Far from applying a bandage to a crack in the dam wall we have chosen to close the sluices and force lake levels to rise. The additional expenses result from not controlling the level rather than continuing to control the level.

Walter Luedtke
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 June 2019 12:00 pm

We have gone over all this before – in great detail.
There is a poster by the pseudonym of ‘Dubious’ who fervently believes that the flooding has been caused by the Obama administration in order to lend credibility to climate change.
Quote: “By design the destruction will continue. All hail Obama!” April 14th, 2018
Sound familiar?

Walter Luedtke
18 June 2019 1:11 pm

In contrast to Ontario’s ‘do nothing’ approach, New York State is taking a pro-active stand.
NY Governor Cuomo recently announced the Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI, describing the proposal as an extensive improvement of the lakeshore.
The REDI commission is a multi-agency task force aimed at developing proposals to harden shoreline infrastructure while strengthening local economies.
The REDI program would form a state council to meet with local communities to propose a vision to recreate waterfronts, Cuomo said, both to establish more resilient shorelines and protect against potential flooding and to facilitate economic development.
Cuomo said many of the state’s waterfront communities thrive in part because of shoreline facilities and the related tourism industry. Sort of like Cobourg. Source: Oswego County News
So, concerned about flooding?
Call David Piccini.

18 June 2019 9:47 am

Minority report of the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study March 17, 2007
As Study Board members, we are writing to express our disappointment with the results of the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study and explain why we do not support the recommendations made and will not sign the final report.
Based upon our involvement with the Study over the past five years, the content of the Final Study Report, and the recommendations contained therein, we have reached the following three conclusions:
(1) The Study was conducted and reported in a manner biased against residents and businesses located on the shoreline and embayments of Lake Ontario;
– – – Also not included is the cost associated with erosion damage to public infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer lines, and the loss of publicly owned and maintained park land at the State, County and municipal level.
(2) The Study lacks the scientific data, analysis and justification to reach the stated conclusions and recommendations;
(3) Even if the above two factors are discounted, the Study recommendations represent poor public policy, ignoring essential social and economic considerations that should be factored into decisions regarding the operation of the system.

ken strauss
17 June 2019 9:54 pm

See this link for a video shot at the west end of Cobourg last Friday.

Reply to  ken strauss
18 June 2019 9:03 am

VIDEO __Thats noting I have lived on this lake most of my life and have seen storm surges far worse than that . The yr they had the Ice storm and flooding in Quebec the lake levels rose to nearly the same heights But we had 3 or 4 days of heavy winds from the east that stirred up the lake and we had what I refer to as Rollers / White caps that averaged 8 ft high besides having a
stone break wall ahead of a 6 ft high 3 ft wide concrete sea wall the waves just came over the top . we lost approx 16 ft of land that yr , My neighbours lost between 60 to 80 ft .

The Provincial Govt. not the towns provided the funding for those that wanted it through the Then Shore Line Protection act It was a Loan not a grant No Free $$ at 3% higher than bank rates
The Towns had to apply to the province the home owner applied to the town the town administered the plan repayment through the Tax Dept and registered the loan on title
It had to be fully repaid and the new work performed was properly engineered and approved
to with stand future storms . Ours is still there today .
We estimated at the time that for the privilege of living on the lake it cost us – or we saved for maintenance $5,000.–
per yr towards shoreline and home protection Double or Triple that today ,
the same goes for Marinas you have to increase the Docking fees to cover for this type of yr its not really a Tax Payers problem . Its a choice & a Property owner problem
Thus the property Tax appeal and Reduction !

17 June 2019 2:39 pm

I feel for them but this is what you get when you want to live near the water. The town has to go to great expense to protect their land and so should homeowners. If they can’t afford to do that then they shouldn’t live on the edge of large and volatile natural feature.

ken strauss
Reply to  Boaty
17 June 2019 10:03 pm

Lake Ontario levels were stable from the late 1950s until 2017. The current flooding is caused by a deliberate effort to raise the lake levels and will result in huge expenses for both the Town of Cobourg and the residents. Repairs will cost everyone in Cobourg whether they live on the lake or not.

Reply to  ken strauss
18 June 2019 5:12 am

I acknowledged it will cost the town a significant amount, hence why private homeowners should not get any town support, the town is going to be maxed on their own property. It is a risk you take when you choose to live beside water.

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  ken strauss
18 June 2019 10:17 pm

Ahem, climate change played a role here, a rather large one. The fun is just beginning too.

Reply to  Boaty
18 June 2019 6:00 pm

I agree. And if any of the homeowners affected are the ones who have posted off limits signs to prevent people from walking the beach I’ve got one word….Karma.