When he bought his home a few years ago, Steve Imburgia had a lawn and a tree between his house and the lake. Now the tree is gone, the lawn is going and if erosion continues at the current pace, his home could go over the cliff in a few years.
"We only have about five feet left until it reaches our back porch," said Imburgia.
Imburgia and his neighbors are hoping the town of Sterling, Cayuga County or New York State will help build up the shoreline and install a retaining wall that will allow groundwater to pass through. The town's code enforcement officer said the costs would be much too high for the town to take on. Doug Kierst from Cayuga County's Soil and Water Conservation District wants to help but says the costs to protect 1000 to 1500 feet of shoreline could be over a million dollars - money the county agency doesn't have either.
Kierst is planning to apply for federal grants that could help Imburgia and other homeowners in danger. The agency has received grants to fund other erosion control work on Lake Ontario this summer.
"Maybe we could work with the Army Corps of Engineers and build the bluff back. It's pretty significant. Without looking at the numbers, it's hard to put a figure on it," said Kierst
Kierst says his agency wants to help control the erosion because the soil being pulled out of Imburgia's yard and swept away into Lake Ontario is also polluting the freshwater lake.
"Our stance is we're trying to protect the water quality of the lake. I know there's a lot of communities out there that depend on Lake Ontario for drinking water," said Kierst.
If the Cayuga County Soil and Water Conservation District can get a grant to help pay for erosion control efforts for the threatened section of Ontario Shores Drive, Kierst says it could require the affected homeowners to contribute to the final cost of the work.
Imburgia and Kierst agree that if nothing is done, some Ontario Shores Drive homes could fall into the lake within the next three years.