Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

September 5, 2013

Lined up to dredge

Leaders say they need federal money for Wilson Harbor

BY BILL WOLCOTT bill.wolcott@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — WILSON — There’s a major collaborative effort to get the Wilson Harbor dredged. The stake holders in the town and village, state, and county leaders are lined up — with Congressman Chris Collins standing in support. The Army Corps of Engineers is ready to go. 

All that is needed is the money. The Corps understands the issue and wants to get enough federal money to do the job. Businesses along the waterway have pledged to pay for their portion of the dredging.

Collins, R-Clarence, led contingent asking for action at the Wilson Pier on Wednesday morning. “The day has come,” Collins told the audience of about 50 people who stood in front of the federally mandated safe harbor. “We’ve got a partnership to get this done.”

Speakers included Assemblywoman Jane Corwin; Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey; Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson; Niagara County Legislator Clyde Burmaster and Wilson Supervisor Joseph Jastrzemski. Niagara County Legislator Chairman Bill Ross backed up the group which assembled with their backs to the water.

A red buoy, bobbing about 25 yards away, marked the spot where the Corps of Engineers’ dredging is to end. Beyond that buoy, is the business end of the harbor, where boaters can be stuck in the mud. Wilson wants the entire channel cleared.

Dredging the entire channal is logical, they claim. A major cost of dredging is bringing the big equipment to Wilson. The land owners, boaters and charter boat businesses have agreed to pay the costs at their properties.

“The Corps of Engingeers has had the funding. There are some level of funds to get them in to do some level of dredging, but  we have to make the case that they have to go further,” Collins said. “Private property owners and businesses recognized they have a responsibility.”

Corwin and Godfrey noted that safety is an issue, along with commerce. “This is a harbor of refuse,” Godfrey said. “This is the harbor to come to. It is important for safety.”

The channel has to be cleared out, Corwin said. “It is the federal responsibility the ensure the channel is dredged.”

Commercially, recreational boaters from Canada are reluctant to return to Wilson, according to the speakers. “If you can’t get in and can’t get out, you won’t come back,” they said.

Lisa Stephens, who coordinated the effort to unite the property owners, quoted a concerned boater. “It is not about low water,” she said. “It’s about high mud.”

Collins said, “The federal government has a responsibility to dredge every six or seven years. It’s been 16 years since it was dreged because the money has been dried up.”

The focus for cleanup has been at commercial harbors.

The money that is coming has been allocated from federal Superstorm Sandy funds. Collins argued that Hurricane Sandy had a direct impact on harbors and streams. Much of the silt comes from Twelvemile Creek.

Speakers also took issue with the International Joint Commission’s proposed plan to change the rules which have been in place for 50 years.