Lakefront views damage as water level falls

ADDISON COUNTY — As record-high water levels on Lake Champlain slowly recede, towns and low-lying areas along the lakefront are beginning to recover and evaluate damage.
Fueled by snowmelt and heavy rains, the lake hit 103.2 feet above sea level on April 29, shattering the 1869 record of 102.1 feet.
The water flooded roads and houses along the lake, and though levels were headed back down toward 102 feet as of Friday, many low-lying areas — including part of Route 125 from Town Line Road in Bridport to Route 17 — were still underwater.
Mike Mattot, owner of the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry in Shoreham, said his dock is completely underwater, and there is water in the adjacent building.
He’s been receiving inquiring calls from many people hoping to shorten their commute between New York and Vermont by taking the seasonal ferry, but he said he hasn’t been able to help them much.
“We’re hoping, if it gets back to around 100 feet, we can start running,” Mattot said. “For commuters, from Ticonderoga to Shoreham is 37 miles … With $4-per-gallon gas, that’s a long way.”
But the lake’s one outlet — the Richelieu River at its northern end — means that the water level will go down slowly, and Mattot said on Thursday that even if there’s no more rain, he expects that opening day for the Fort Ti Ferry won’t come for another 10 days to two weeks.
Last year Mattot opened the ferry on April 26, and with a normal rate of 150 to 200 passengers each day in the early season, he said he’s already lost a lot of money this year.
But it’s still early, and he said the summer brings much more traffic.
“In the summer it picks up,” he said. “Memorial Day weekend, that’s usually a mob.”
As he waits for the water levels to recede, Mattot said he’s doing what he can.
“We’ve been doing a lot of cleanup,” he said. “But I can live with that compared to the people who have lost houses.”
Shoreham Town Clerk Amy Douglas said that the Carillon Cruise tour boat dock is also destroyed, and that there’s been damage to some town roads and to one home in the town, which was affected by the collapse of a clay bank.
Roads were also closed in Ferrisburgh and Panton, though Susan Arnebold, Orwell town clerk, said there’s been no road or property damage reported in her town.
Road crews have been in overdrive as water levels begin to recede, dealing with the damage to town roads and collapsed culverts.
Rick Cloutier, Panton road foreman, said the town has seen significant damage to four town roads, and that it had to hire contractors in order to reopen roads after the largest storms. At the water’s peak, he said, Panton Flats Road was close to five inches under water, and Slang Road was close to two feet.
Last Thursday, Cloutier was waiting on a road evaluation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but he estimated that the road damage, which is structural, could end up costing anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 to fix.
Like Panton, towns across the state are waiting for FEMA evaluation of property and road damage. The state filed for disaster assistance after it received unofficial damage estimates topping $1 million following both the storms and the flooding in late April.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at [email protected].

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