Dredging still on track, but officials call for vigilance
Sep 5, 2013
In The News
WILSON — A coalition of local officials led by Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday to follow through with plans to dredge Oak Orchard Harbor and other Lake Ontario harbors next year.
A delegation of local leaders toured a pair of Niagara County harbors Wednesday to highlight what Collins called an urgent need for protection along the lake’s American shoreline.
Funding to dredge harbors in Carlton, Wilson and Olcott was included in an bill assisting areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 after it was determined that the storm worsened accessibility issues in all three waterways.
Oak Orchard Harbor, which connects the lake with the Oak Orchard River, was the most recently dredged of the three nearby harbors. But as in Olcott and Wilson, dredging is needed to eliminate a growing sediment backlog that in Oak Orchard is estimated to take up 35,000 cubic yards at the harbor’s mouth.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that more than half the build-up at the Oak Orchard Harbor needs to be removed to ensure safe passage for boaters.
“The dredging of these harbors is long overdue, and is needed in order to maintain and maximize the harbors’ economic and recreational importance,” said Collins. “Earlier this year, I announced that the Army Corps of Engineers had the funding it needed to perform maintenance dredging in Oak Orchard, Olcott and Wilson harbors in 2014, and I look forward to seeing this necessary process begin next year.”
Echoing a sentiment expressed last month by the Orleans County Legislature, Collins also voiced opposition to a proposed International agreement regulating lake water levels.
“The International Joint Commission plan is not in the best interest of homeowners and other stakeholders along the Lake Ontario shoreline,” said Collins.
The IJC, an American-Canadian body that controls water levels in the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes, has proposed a new set of regulations to replace an outdated agreement between the two nations.
Local officials have warned Plan 2014 would cause higher highs and lower lows in lake levels, which would exacerbate sediment-related harbor dangers, and worsen shoreline erosion.
“This new plan was created with a disregard for the economy, residential development and sport fishing of lakeside communities,” Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson said at the Wilson event. “Orleans County residents and elected officials stand resolute with Congressman Collins in protecting the waters, streams, and harbors of Lake Ontario.”
The plan being considered would need to be approved by governments in both Ottawa and Washington to be enacted.