Identifying Economic Impacts of Inundation On New York’s Lake Ontario Water Resources through Research and Engagement

Funded by NOAA Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications/Sectoral Applications Research Program (COCA/SARP) award to Syracuse University



Lake Ontario floods on a roughly 20-year cycle; the severity of the 2017 flood left coastal communities unprepared for the immediate impacts and in need of aid for business, home, and infrastructure repair and flood response equipment. These communities lack essential knowledge to make sound investment decisions related to flood preparedness. A shift toward proactive planning and funding is necessary to reduce the economic impacts of future flood events in these communities.

Recreation and tourism serve as the economic foundation for the communities in Wayne County, NY on the Lake Ontario coast or embayments that this project seeks to serve. Flooding negatively impacts the economy if the activities at its core are significantly hindered.

The first step is to understand the flood risk and identify the water resources that are at risk. For this project in these communities, water resources are defined as a water-based resource, built or natural, that impact the local economy. For example, a beach has a measurable, maybe even significant, economic impact; so does the existence of drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

This project offers a comprehensive approach to supporting economic vitality in coastal communities only beginning to understand what flood resiliency means for them. The project team will collect quantitative and qualitative data beginning at the parcel level up to the census-tract level and through participatory research methods by hosting workshops with stakeholder participation. Analysis of that data will allow the project team to provide recommendations that may allow communities to make investments that can make them more resilient to future flooding. The project team will collect and analyze data to identify vulnerabilities and estimate the economic impact of those vulnerabilities. These data will support the recommendations offered by this project and sound, future decision-making. However, good decision-making takes uncertainties into account. The best way to address those uncertainties is to include projecting future economic and climatic conditions. The scenario-development component of this project, which GLISA will lead, will present a decision-making framework that can be used to identify measures to ensure future resiliency.

Project Accomplishments (Anticipated)

  • GIS layers and mapped economic and shoreline property impacts linked to flooding
  • Series of scenarios related to future climate changes and lake levels
  • Two stakeholder workshops to create vulnerability matrices and proposed flood resiliency actions
  • Report of recommended actions for local, county, regional, or state-level water resource managers, local governments, economic development agencies, infrastructure managers, and businesses and landowners
  • Report on water resources-related planning opportunities

Research Findings (Anticipated)

This project will explore flooding vulnerabilities faced by coastal Lake Ontario communities in New York through several stakeholder workshops. Data collected during these workshops and in preliminary research will be used to assess the vulnerabilities, inform recommendations by the project team for increasing economic resilience to future flooding, and suggest adaptation measures. The project team will also conduct a review of local planning documents for gaps, strengths, and opportunities, and will support the development of local land use regulatory policy including incentivizing economic development and supporting the needs of the business community.

GLISA’s Contribution

GLISA is a subcontractor to Syracuse University on this project. GLISA is worked with New York Sea Grant at Cornell University to plan and facilitate a scenario planning workshop for residents of Wayne County, NY, in order to evaluate their vulnerabilities to coastal flooding caused by high Lake Ontario water levels.

A summary report of this workshop is available here.



Syracuse University, Cornell University, New York Sea Grant

GLISA Contact

Kim Channell, Climatologist,