SILVER CREEK - Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards and Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello (R-Irving) recently met with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, as well as federal, state and local officials at the Hanover Town Hall in Silver Creek to discuss the need for dredging the Cattaraugus Creek Harbor.
Borrello, who also serves as the chairman of the Lake Erie Management Commission, organized and moderated the meeting with the help of Jeff Diers, Chautauqua County Watershed coordinator.
Others in attendance were: state Sen. Cathy Young, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, Legislator Vince Horrigan (R-Bemus Point), Legislator John Hemmer (R-Westfield), town of Westfield Supervisor and LEMC member Martha Bills, town of Hanover Highway Superintendent Steve D'Angelo, Bill Daly, Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development director, Kathy Tampio, Chadwick Bay Regional Development Corporation executive director, representatives from the USACE, and representatives from Congressman Tom Reed and Young's offices.
Also in attendance were Jim Tunney, Dick Berner and Ed Schintzius, who are three Sunset Bay residents who have been working to bring attention to the need for dredging in Cattaraugus Creek. These three residents went into Cattaraugus Creek and measured the depths by hand at various critical points. Those depths were used to illustrate the true urgency for dredging as it is estimated that the water levels may be down by 18 inches in some areas.
"With Lake Erie at historically low water levels along with a tremendous amount of sediment and debris build up, the need for dredging is beyond urgent," Borrello said. "This is more than an inconvenience. By next year at this time, several areas including the Cattaraugus Creek channel in Sunset Bay will be too shallow to launch or navigate boats."
In Chautauqua County, there are three harbors that provide access into Lake Erie: Barcelona Harbor, Cattaraugus Creek Harbor and Dunkirk Harbor.
Barcelona and Dunkirk Harbors have been dredged within the last 14 years. Some 75,400 cubic yards of sediment were removed from the Barcelona Harbor in 1999 and 106,400 cubic yards of sediment were removed from the Dunkirk Harbor in 2009.
In addition, Barcelona Harbor is scheduled to be dredged in the spring and summer of 2014 because of the impact from Superstorm Sandy.
Approximately 50,000 cubic yards of sediment will be removed from the Federal channel within the harbor.
Despite these two fairly recent dredging projects, the Cattaraugus Creek Harbor in the town of Hanover, according to the USACE, has not been dredged since it was constructed in 1983. It is estimated that 55,000 cubic yards of sediment are in its federal channel.
The high sedimentation and low water level in the creek could also lead to economic concerns for the Silver Creek and Hanover areas.
"Sometimes we forget how valuable the major streams are running in to the lake as world renowned fishing streams," said Bill Daly. "Sport fishermen come from all over the world to fish here. Cattaraugus Creek is one of the major streams fished by these people. The area of Irving with Cattaraugus Creek and Sunset Bay Beach is a major tourist destination. We need to make sure that this important waterway receives full consideration for not just dredging, but also ice flow into the lake and flooding."
For Cattaraugus Creek, the USACE can fund 59 percent of the cost of dredging the federal channel and 41 percent of the cost must come from non-federal dollars, which would be the local match.
"Dredging is an important undertaking in all of our county's harbors that border Lake Erie," Edwards said. "It is important that we come together with all governmental resources in order to make necessary dredging projects a reality. Without the cooperation of the federal, state and local governments, the funding for these projects would be cost prohibitive for a single agency to undertake alone."
Young and Goodell have committed to looking for state funding for the local share portion of dredging projects and Drew Wayne from Reed's office has been in communication with the USACE as well as Borrello and Diers to help coordinate the funding of the federal portion.
"This meeting is the first step in the process of getting a plan to accomplish the harbor and dredging projects so desperately needed within the Lake Erie shoreline of our county," Borrello said. "We will now have a clearer picture of what needs to be done and of the path that needs to be followed to achieve our goal."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are currently working to develop cost estimates for a potential dredging project for the Cattaraugus Creek Channel.