Katko bill permits flooded shoreline communities to sue international commission for damages

U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) on March 2 introduced bipartisan legislation that would permit flooding-impacted shoreline communities to take legal action against the International Joint Commission (IJC), which was established by the United States and Canada to manage lake and river systems along the border.

“The IJC has failed to adequately protect our shoreline communities against costly damage,” Rep. Katko said on Monday. “This legislation aims to hold this organization accountable and ensure impacted communities have the ability to seek restitution.”

Rep. Katko sponsored the IJC Accountability Act, H.R. 6052, with lead cosponsor U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) to remove IJC immunity from lawsuits by directing the U.S. president to withdraw the IJC immunity from lawsuits and other forms of judicial process, according to the congressional record summary of the bill.

In 2017 and 2019, communities along Lake Ontario’s southern shore experienced historic high-water levels, resulting in high-dollar damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure, according to information from the office of Rep. Katko.

In fact, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that lake levels may reach or exceed previous levels in the upcoming spring, according to the information.

“High water levels along Lake Ontario have devastated homes, businesses, and infrastructure in our region – and we’re not seeing an adequate response from the IJC,” said Rep. Katko. “Homeowners and business owners alike have been forced to pay thousands of dollars to make repairs to keep their homes safe and their businesses open.”

Several local American business owners and officials praised Rep. Katko’s introduction of H.R. 6052, including Jason Livesey, owner of Rudy’s Lakeside Drive-In in Oswego; Mayor of Sodus Point Dave McDowell; Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay; and Richland Town Supervisor Dan Krupke.

“The economic impact on our communities will be far-reaching as many businesses depend on this seasonal trade,” said Krupke.

H.R. 6052 has been referred to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration.