WESTFIELD - A $275,000 project in Chautauqua Creek near Westfield will open up more area for fish to spawn - and maybe make fishing in the creek a little better, too.
The Chautauqua Creek Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Restoration Project held a groundbreaking ceremony recently. The project will create a way for fish to get over two dams and gain access to 10 more miles of spawning habitat in the upper part of the creek.
"We had our trials getting here today, but we're here," said Lt. Col. Stephen Bales, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District commander. "We're very excited about doing something great for the village, for the environment, for the nation."
The group of people responsible for getting The Chautauqua Creek Great Lakes Fisheries and Ecosystem Restoration Project started and built met for a groundbreaking ceremony at the project site recently. Among those pictured are town of Westfield Supervisor Martha Bills, village of Westfield Mayor David Carr, town and village of Westfield Attorney Joel Seachrist, town of Westfield Highway Supervisor David Babcock and village of Westfield Clerk Vince Luce.
"I do believe that it's going to increase the fishing in this area," said David Carr, Westfield mayor. "Some of the trout are already on up the stream and with this I think many more will be able to get up over the ladder. (It) should make some excellent fishing."
Carr added he believes that could bring tourists to the area and increase the income of restaurants, gas stations and other businesses in the area.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, in coordination with the village of Westfield and state Department of Environmental Conservation, expects to complete the project in September. This Chautauqua Creek project is the first fisheries and ecosystem restoration project the corps' Buffalo District has done, and it is hoped the project will help restore fishery populations using dam removal measures.
"This is a big deal for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and more importantly the village of Westfield," Bales said. "We're really excited about this project."
The village of Westfield owns the property where the construction will take place, even though it is technically in the town, because the village has a water intake at the upper dam, as well as an old, obsolete intake at the lower dam. The project will include creating a notch in the lower dam to help fish pass through the dam and build a rock ramp at the upper dam. The Corps of Engineers also designed a sea lamprey barrier as part of the project. Although it is expected the barrier will not have to be used, the Corps included measures to prevent upstream migration of the invasive lamprey. The Chautauqua Creek fish passage project also contributes to the goals outlined by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission in a Great Lakes basin-wide management plan.
"It will be a great thing for the fisheries habitat, for the environment, anytime you can restore a stream to its more natural state," Bales said. "The Corps of Engineers is about taking care of the nation's water problems and this is one of the water problems we have facing the nation. ... Everything we can do to take care of this actually helps the great lakes as well."
"(The) DEC is pleased to partner with the Corps of Engineers, the village of Westfield and the GLFER program to restore fish passage back to Chautauqua Creek," said Mike Clancy, DEC regional fisheries manager. "This collaborative project will restore connectivity and improve local fish populations by enabling fish to access high quality spawning habitat in the upper reaches of the stream."
There is $275,000 dedicated to the project, Bales said. Neither the village or the town will be financially responsible for the project, though the village did have to build an access road wide enough for the Army Corps vehicles and will have to clean up behind it as well.