Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE — The yacht club members, tourism officials and marina owners that populated a public information meeting Thursday agree that harbor dredging is an investment worth making, but their effort to direct funding towards the infrastructure improvements is not yet ready to pull out of the piers.
A group of more than 50 people representing harbor groups stretching from Wilson to Brockport came to Newfane Town Hall to hear the preliminary findings of the Regional Harbor Dredging Management Plan update and offer their own information.
Orleans County Planning and Tourism Director Wayne Hale, who is leading the six-county project, said Friday that the input from yacht club members and marina owners is important in filling gaps in the preliminary plan, whether it comes from detailed studies or anecdotal stories.
”We need them for the plan to be comprehensive,” Hale said.
The new plan, which will be completed in 2013, covers 160 miles of Lake Ontario’s southern shores and will database and detail the need for dredging in 19 harbors in Niagara, Orleans, Monroe, Wayne, Cayuga and Oswego counties. The 2000 dredging management plan, which did not include harbors in Wilson, Olcott and Carlton, was not able to secure a consistent source of funding for dredging or a mechanism for locally-initiated harbor work.
”It went nowhere,” Frank Sciremammano, who is consulting the plan update, told meeting attendees. “Our harbors have silted in.”
That’s the case across the region, where previously high waters have declined to lows not seen in nearly fifty years. Sciremammano said a dredged Wilson harbor would be ideal for recreational boating at a depth of eight feet — the set up to the punchline that drew a round of knowing laughs. Sciremammano’s measurements have the harbor’s shallowest spot at just 4 feet and seven inches deep.
Those issues have an immediate economic impact for both boaters, harbor businesses and communities.