Costs for multiuse trail raises concerns among Wheatfield residents
By Lauren Zaepfel
The Niagara River Waterfront Multi-Use Trail project was discussed at Monday's Town of Wheatfield board meeting. A motion to approve supplement one for the project for a lump sum of $178,800 was considered, but not made.
Tim Zuber, Wendel project engineer, said the initial part of the design project for the trail involved his office conversing with CSX rail officials.
"Basically, our initial direction for this trail was to keep it south of the railroad tracks and not have to work with crossing those railroad lines," said Tim Zuber, project engineer at Wendel.
Supervisor Bob Cliffe said CSX specified it will not allow an at-grade crossing for the trail on the railroad tracks at a specific point before Liberty Drive, where the tracks take a right turn and begin to head north. The option to install a bridge was the most cost-effective means of continuing the trail, compared to constructing a tunnel that would allow the trail to run below the tracks.
"Now it appears that our only alternative is to now actually cross the railroad tracks. And, in doing that, we have to cross them twice, so one of those crossings (would) have to be a bridge, which is the only way CSX will allow us to cross away from the main road," Zuber said. "The other crossing is at Witmer Road. It already is a crossing, but it's one that they'll require improvements for to put a trail there."
Zuber explained extra design work is now required, too, and will add to the cost of the project. The new amount will then have to be put in front of the board by Wendel "because the bond that's currently in place does not cover the work priced at this time, so we will be changing that bond."
"In order to approve the additional monies required for the design of the entire project, we would have to redo our bond resolution, modify our bond resolution," Cliffe said.
Cliffe explained that, since receiving the information for the project late last week, the board has not had enough time to "get our bond counsel to look at (it). So, hopefully, we will be able to take a look at that at our next meeting."
Supplement one of the project is planned to cover the complete design for both the first and second supplements, as well as begin the construction process, ideally from Williams Road to Liberty Drive, or possibly to the Niagara Falls city line. Supplement two would then include building the bridge required.
"The plan for the trail would be starting at the 102nd Street area, which is the town line, move along the riverside right along River Road, backset off of River Road ... and come down to about Williams Road," Cliffe said. "There is a crossing at Williams Road now that will have to be upgraded and then it goes back along Williams Road, and then you turn in behind what's Sandi's Restaurant, and then the trail will follow along through the woods."
Several residents attending the meeting spoke out. They requested more information on why the town had to pay for the trail construction - especially if few residents could access it easily or if many of them simply did not want to use it.
Cliffe explained the Greenway Trail would go north all the way from South Buffalo.
"The one area who hasn't done their homework, that has not completed anything, is Wheatfield," he said. "Part of the problem is we didn't have the money to do it. We were given a grant to get started, we've also been given some money from the Greenway Trail from the county as a host community, which will help also."
"The people of Wheatfield shouldn't be paying for this whole project. It's not a project for Wheatfield - it's a project for all of Western New York. It's an important project for all of Western New York, but all of Western New York can't do this; we have to do this. We have to do it," Cliffe added. "We owe it to Western New York to do our part, but we don't owe it to Western New York to build this whole thing on the backs of Wheatfield. Without grant money, we're not going to be able to do it."
Cliffe explained that, right now, the board is focused on phase one of the project, "which gets us to Liberty Drive, because phase two is crazy expensive and, without additional money, we're not going to be able to build it. But we can design it. It's not that expensive to design it. That's where we are."
The second crossing of the railroad will be in the City of North Tonawanda.
"Does that belong on the backs of Wheatfield? Probably not, so that's part of the design process - to find out how much are those things going to cost, where they're going to be and then go out and get more money to help us build it," Cliffe said.
Town of Wheatfield Councilman Larry Helwig has been working on this project for several years and helped clarify the location of the trail in relation to Wheatfield.
"We're taking it to 102 Street, which is actually the Niagara Falls city limit, but I think the project should end at the Wheatfield line, and that extra 1,500 feet or whatever it is to get to Witmer Road, and the Witmer Road crossing, which I think CSX is saying is 300-plus thousand dollars for it, that should be a cost that North Tonawanda has to bear, not the Town of Wheatfield," he said.
Krueger Road developments begin to increase safety
Progress has been made toward the town's goal of increasing safety for residents who utilize Krueger Road. Pipes have been replaced and ground cover was laid down.
"We're probably going to put some more (ground cover) down, level it off a little bit better," Town of Wheatfield Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann said. The final grade is set to be put on in the coming weeks.
"We want it done before the end of this month," Siegmann said.
Although these improvements are underway, there are more updates to be made, such as the installation of a new sidewalk.
Residents sought clarification on the cost of the sidewalk plans for Krueger Road.
"The rough estimate was half a million dollars anticipated for $85 to $100 per linear foot. This one (new estimated cost of the sidewalk) is $945,000, which comes to something like $180 per linear foot," Cliffe told Zuber.
Residents also wanted to know why the new estimated cost had jumped so significantly from the initial prediction.
"The first initial guestimate ... that was based on rates we've had doing similar jobs in Lockport over the past year or two, and those both were pretty much in line with that rate," Zuber said. "The main difference is that those jobs that we were using from a linear footage standpoint had pretty minimal drainage work associated with them. They were in areas that either the sidewalks weren't going to interfere with drainage or they had fairly new drainage put it."
Zuber explained the first guestimate included "just a couple hundred foot of storm pipe."
After Zuber discussed the plan with Siegmann and further investigated the current drainage system along the road where the sidewalk would be installed, he explained the drainage configuration was discovered to be "piecemealed" together.
"The original road that was there - it looks like it was basically all roadside ditches and then everybody had a culvert underneath their driveway that got put in," Zuber said. "And over time, more houses get built, more culverts get put in. Different various people want different yards put in. ... Things have just happened piecemealed over the past 40, 50 years, even."
Siegmann added more clarification as to why drainage had added to the cost of implementing the sidewalk.
"We replaced three driveway pipes on that side of the road already this year that were rotted out," he said. "And I could not see spending $600,000 on sidewalk and have the rest of the pipes slowly rot out. ... Even if the sidewalk isn't on the pipe, if we have the thing next to it, it's going to sink. ... We might as well figure on redoing the drainage on that side of the road for that very reason. It makes no sense to put brand-new sidewalks on old pipe."
Zuber said the cost of the purchasing and installing the needed storm pipe and structures was mainly what drove up the cost.
Zuber also said he hopes money will be saved when investigating the intended sidewalk area further, by discovering structures that may have been "put in very close to each other that really don't need to go back in there."
He explained that, when estimating for a project like this, "you really need to go for a number that you know you won't exceed."
"The whole purpose of going through this exercise was to find out how much it would actually cost and to lineate those costs so that our grant writer could go after a grant," Cliffe said. "We still intend to apply for that grant and see what comes back and, if it becomes inexpensive enough to be able to do, then we can proceed. If not, then we have some discussion to do."
Cliffe releases information obtained from National Fuel on dehydration station
Toward the end of Monday's meeting, Cliffe said he attended the Nov. 7 public information forum held by National Fuel on the proposed Pendleton compressor station.
"National Fuel has not been overflowing with information about (the compressor and dehydration stations); they have not been willing to hold a meeting here in Wheatfield," Cliffe said. "I attended the meeting that was in Wendelville and I talked to two of the people there - Ron Kraemer, who is president of Empire Pipeline and also Ron Kasprzak, who is the lead engineer for these projects - and asked them a bunch of questions."
Cliffe inquired about the possible hazards and specifics of the dehydration station specifically.
"These are not my answers, these are the answer they gave to me," Cliffe said.
For the complete list of the questions and paraphrased answers Cliffe provided, see the accompanying sidebar article on Page 3.
Residents continue to voice concerns on Quasar output
More questions were brought up by residents about the Quasar Energy Group and the controversy surrounding the contents of the byproducts being output from its plant on Liberty Drive.
Cliffe said the company has said it is not using biosolids. He further explained, "The town has in place certain rules regarding using fertilizer products, which contain biosolids; banning their application on any parcel over 2.5 acres," Cliffe said Tuesday. "We also have a requirement that any plant now in place, and any future plant, which plans to sell biosolids as part of their products, must inform the town of changes or additions to production methods. These are designed to be additional protection for Wheatfield residents. These are difficult, but not impossible to enforce should need arise."
Cliffe added he believes the Town Board members "feel that we have done all that is practical. We have an excellent consultant and an excellent attorney working with us to make sure our practices are responsible."
Cliffe questions National Fuel on dehydration station
By Robert B. Cliffe
Town of Wheatfield Supervisor
On Nov. 7, I went to the public information meeting put on by National Fuel Gas regarding the Northern Access 2016 pipeline project. I attended the presentation regarding the 22,000-horsepower compressor station, which is intended for Killian Road in the Town of Pendleton.
In addition to the presentation on the compressor, I sat down with Ronald Kraemer, president of Empire Pipeline Inc. and vice president of National Fuel Gas Supply Inc., as well as Ron Kasprzak, engineer for the compressor project. National Fuel does not plan on having a scoping meeting in Wheatfield; this was my opportunity to get their response to several questions, which had come up regarding the dehydration project planned for Wheatfield. The items below paraphrase their responses:
1. Where is the dehydration plant going to be built?
It will be located along the north side of Liberty Drive, right at the corner which heads to River Road. They will bore two access pipes under the railroad tracks to connect with the existing Empire pipeline, which comes from the Inducon area and crosses the river to Grand Island, then Ontario.
2. What is the explosion hazard, being within a half-mile of residential areas?
Neither could recall any explosion with a dehydration unit elsewhere in their companies. This unit is large, but the re-boiler is basically the same process as a boiler in a local school, or the heater in your home - a natural gas flame boiling the water vapor off in the re-boiler.
3. How does the dehydration unit remove water from the natural gas moving through the pipe?
The amount of water in the gas must meet U.S. standards, which are 7 per million cubic feet. For Canada, it must be 4 pounds of water per million cubic feet. However, generally, the gas running through the pipe is around 2 pounds per million cubic feet, so the dryer will not be activated very often.
When there is excess water, the system will automatically turn on. The gas will flow up through a larger diameter tank (contact tower), into which tri-ethylene glycol resides. The glycol adheres to the water molecules, which are collected and boiled at 350 degrees in the reboiler. The boiling temperature for glycol is higher than water, so water vapor is given off to the air and the glycol remains.
When activated, the amount of water being removed will generally be less than half a gallon per 1,000,000 cubic feet of gas. Natural gas burns far cleaner than other fuels, especially gasoline, and for a lower cost.
4. What emissions go off into the air?
Primarily water vapor, as well as some material that is a byproduct of combustion, such as carbon dioxide, is emitted. National Fuel states it has committed to install a thermal oxidizer on the re-boiler exhaust to make sure any other constituents in the exhaust, such as propane and other carbon materials, will be burned off.
5. If the fracking gas comes from Pennsylvania, why not dry it there?
Excess water and impurities are removed before the gas gets far from the wells at production area processing facilities. However, water can enter the system from storage systems built deep into the ground. Natural gas in transmission pipelines like Empire is generally clean and dry but, if there is any, it must be dried before going into Canada.
6. How do town residents or the town itself benefit from this dryer in Wheatfield?
For one, this natural gas is low-cost and clean-burning. This pipeline guarantees continued service at great rates for many years to come.
Also, the project will be taxed at normal rates, benefitting the school system by paying substantial school taxes without adding students. It will also pay county and local taxes, if any.
Finally, this is a major building project bringing perhaps hundreds of construction jobs, including local companies. There are many people who work for National Fuel; this helps maintain - possibly increase - these jobs.
7. When will there be a meeting in Wheatfield regarding this dehydration unit?
They do not see a need for another public information meeting, as there have been three such meetings so far in Pendleton.
Side note from me: This project will have to go through a thorough review by the Planning Board and our town engineer. The Planning Board may choose to require a public information meeting as part of that process.
More information is available at www.nationalfuelgas.com/empire/northernaccess2016.