Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 16, 2013

Sandy money to be used for dredging

Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard affected

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —

'It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good."

— Ageless Idiom

With a push from Hurricane Sandy, the long-awaited dredging of harbors in Wilson, Olcott and Oak Orchard are on track to happen in 2014, according to Congressman Chris Collins.

The Army Corp of Engineers is getting Sandy money and now has the funding it needs to perform maintenance the Lake Ontario recreation harbors. Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in U.S.  history.

"The dredging of these three local harbors is long overdue,” said Collins. “Local residents and government leaders have been pushing the federal government to prioritize the work in order to maintain and maximize the harbors’ economic and recreational importance. These waterways are not only used for summer boating and recreation, but play a critical role in supporting the regional economy through the charter fishing industry."

With recreational boating and fishing in danger, dredging the Wilson harbor is critical to the area economy. Some dredging occurred in 2004, but now boats get stuck in the silt in the Federal harbor that has accumulated over the last decade.

Money had been put aside for harbor projects, but recreational boats has taken the back seat to commercial issues. Wilson Supervisor Joe Jastrzemski has been lobbying to get the harbors dredged and a meeting with State Senator George Maziarz, Collins and local leaders last month at the Wilson Town Hall.

Collins followed up with phone calls to the Army Corps of Engineers and set up a meeting in Washington, D.C. He got the good news.    

"The key to unlocking these dollars was getting Congress to pass the Sandy relief," Collins said by phone from the Capitol Tuesday. "The Corps of Engineers did their own research and was able to connect Superstorm Sandy to some level of increase in silt in the harbor and therefore could go in to do dredging to get the harbor back to where it was prior to the storm."

Dredging only new silt would be impractical, so the harbors would be properly cleared. Dredging removes built-up sediment that, over time, narrows a harbor’s channel dimensions and creates unsafe navigation conditions for both commercial and recreational boating. 

"Every once in a while you have a good day at the office and that, for me, was a good day at the office," said Collins whose 27th District includes all of Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston Counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara and Ontario counties. "It's not just Niagara County that's impacted."

While Collins estimated that 95 percent of Sandy money will be used in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut, he is confident there will be enough money to dredge the Wilson, Oak Orchard and Olcott harbors.

"I don't have the dollar amount, but it will be whatever is needed to get the job done," Collins said. "I don't think money, at this point, is going to be a problem."

"It's tremendous news," Jastrzemski said. "I've been fighting eight years. That's great news."

The supervisor noted that he had a good dialog with Collins and that  Maziarz was an important part of the push.

County Legislator David Godfrey, the chairman of the Community and Safety Committee, has been active in the process. "It's fabulous," he said. "It's very good news, wonderful."

Godfrey, who works with the Niagara Orleans Regional Association (NORA), helped the counties secure a grant for sampling the silt in order to determine where it will be disposed.

Newfane Supervisor said the dredging of the Olcott Harbor will  only include the area between the Federal Piers. "If I can get the sampling done at our marina, this could save us a lot of money in mobilization costs and they will do the bidding for me."

US Army Corps of Engineers:· Wilson Harbor was last dredged in 2000 when 5,100 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every three to five years. The current sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 55,000 cubic yards. • Oak Orchard Harbor in the Town of Carlton in Orleans County was last dredged in 2004 when 10,700 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every three to five years. In order to maintain adequate channel depth, 18,000 cubic yards of dredging will be required. The total sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 35,000 cubic yards. • Olcott Harbor was last dredged in 1997 when 9,900 cubic yards of material was removed. This harbor should be dredged every five to 10 years. The current sediment backlog is estimated at approximately 55,000 cubic yards.