Congressman Brian Higgins on Monday announced a federal grant totaling $2,853,778 to the Niagara Falls Water Board for improvements to the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The federal funding is provided under the Federal Emergency Management Agency Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides communities with grants to “eliminate long-term risk to people and property from future disasters.” It is estimated that every dollar spent through this program in prevention saves $4 in future damages within a community.
Higgins said, “There is an immediate need in this community and throughout our country to upgrade older water and sewer infrastructure. Niagara Falls residents and waterways have paid the price for outdated and overloaded systems. This federal funding will help with protections during the most extreme conditions, and we will continue our fight for a major federal infrastructure bill that addressed the needs of communities like ours in a comprehensive way.”
A severe winter storm Nov. 17-26, 2014, dumped nearly seven feet of snow on Western New York. That was followed by a warm-up, which led to flooding. Congress replenished FEMA disaster relief funds through Public Law No: 113-235, which passed the House in its final form on Dec. 11, 2014, and became law on Dec 16. President Barack Obama officially declared the disaster on Dec. 22, making hazard mitigation program assistance available statewide, including the specific funding that has been made available for this project.
The previous year, on July 19, a one-in-100 year rainstorm delivered 3.5 inches of rain within a few hours in the City of Niagara Falls. This event knocked out the sewer plant for weeks, caused more than $10 million in damage at the sewer plant, and resulted in basement and other flooding at 1,100 individual properties in Niagara Falls.
The project being funded through this grant is designed to prevent that extensive damage to the plant and individual properties in the event of a similar extreme rain event in the future.
The Niagara Falls Water Board is a public benefit corporation with an annual operating budget of $28.7 million. It serves more than 18,400 residential and business accounts in the greater Niagara Falls region. The board previously identified a need for $27 million in water quality improvements, and committed $13.5 million from its own budget toward upgrades. Additional state and federal funding has also been committed for improvements.