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Congressman Brian Higgins listens as Lt. Col Colby Krug addresses the media. (Submitted photo)
Congressman Brian Higgins listens as Lt. Col Colby Krug addresses the media. (Submitted photo)

Higgins: Millions headed to WNY for waterway & contamination projects


Mon, Mar 6th 2023 03:15 pm

Nearly $24 million for waterway investments, over $115 million for contaminated site cleanup

$113 million for Niagara County projects, $26 million for Erie County included in U.S. Army Corps 2023 work plan

Congressman Brian Higgins announced projects across Erie and Niagara counties are slated to receive over $139.7 million in federal funding as outlined in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 2023 work plan released on Feb. 28.

“This is a multimillion-dollar federal investment in a clean communities and vibrant Western New York waterways,” Higgins said. “We’ve made incredible waterfront progress but, to maximize the potential for recreational, commercial and fishing boat activities, investments in the water are just as important as investments along the water’s edge. We are fortunate to call this community that borders the Great Lakes our home, and grateful to the Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District for their stewardship of this region’s natural assets.”

Lt. Col. Colby Krug, commander of the U.S. Army Corps Buffalo District, said, “The Buffalo District Army Corps of Engineers is proud to be part of the many projects that have benefited the Western New York Region. Our mission is to provide safe navigation, protect vital commerce and ensure the safety of human health and the environment. Investments like this are critical for mission accomplishment.”

Total Erie & Niagara County Waterway Investments: $23,978,000

•Black Rock Channel & Tonawanda Harbor: $21,227,000. This Niagara River passageway allows for recreational travel between Buffalo’s Outer Harbor and Tonawanda Harbor, as well as the commercial shipment of over 90,000 tons of goods annually. The funding supports the maintenance and operation of the channel, as well as a comprehensive evaluation, of the Black Rock lock. Following the assessment, a large portion of this funding will support lock gate instillation in late-2023/early-2024.

Separate from this amount is an additional $10 million requested and secured by Higgins in the budget for improvements to Bird Island Pier.

•Buffalo Harbor: $2,711,000. This project is located along the Buffalo Outer Harbor in Lake Erie. Funding for Buffalo Harbor will support continued dredging of the navigation channel to maintain depths necessary to support average annual commercial shipments of 964,000 tons, and will fund continued repairs to the north, south and west breakwaters.

In 2021, Higgins helped secure $13.5 million for a reconstruction of the north breakwater, which protects Ralph Wilson Centennial Park, Waterfront Village and Erie Basin Marina. More than $10 million in additional funds allowed for Army Corps construction of a new seawall at Ralph Wilson Centennial Park in 2022. Most recently, $10 million in funding made possible thanks to the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” will be invested in an Army Corps project at Times Beach Nature Preserve on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

•Olcott Harbor: $8,000. The federal funding will support safe recreational boating with maintenance dredging of Olcott Harbor, located on Lake Ontario at Eighteen Mile Creek in Niagara County’s Village of Olcott.

•Wilson Harbor: $8,000. Located on Lake Ontario at Twelve Mile Creek, Wilson Harbor is home to a recreational and charter boat community that generates $8.5 million for the local economy through restaurants, retail and other economic activity. Federal funding will support harbor maintenance.

•Sturgeon Point: $24,000. Provides operation and maintenance resources, as well as funding authorized through a cooperative agreement with the Town of Evans, for sand bypassing and/or dredging to maintain Lake Erie’s Sturgeon Point Marina, which supports recreational boating and charter fishing operations.

Surveillance of Northern Boundary Waters: $710,000. Not included in the Erie and Niagara counties allocations listed above, but also impacting Western New York, is $710,000 in federal funding “to support the work of the Corps with Canada on issues pertaining to the waters that cross or are along the Canada – United States boundary.”

Total awards to Erie and Niagara Counties under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) is $115,750,000.

The federal government provides resources through the FUSRAP program created in 1974 to identify and support the cleanup or control of sites contaminated as a result of the Manhattan Project.

Per Higgins’ team:

Former Guterl Specialty Steel Corp in Lockport: $103,650,000. The Guterl Steel site, which was owned by Simonds Saw and Steel Company during WWII, was used through a contract with the Atomic Energy Commission to roll uranium. Funding will support completion of the Record of Decision and contracting for remedial activities set to begin in 2024.

Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston: $10,000,000. In 1944, the site began receiving radioactive waste from nuclear weapon research and development work conducted under the Manhattan Project. Resources will support the continued design of the cleanup of the most complex aspect of the site, the Interim Waste Containment Structure, with some contract awards planned for 2024. Long in planning phases, this project is advancing toward substantial clean-up. USACE recently solicited contracts for the cleanup of a portion of the NFSS site termed “Balance of Plant.” This $10 million will support the cleanup of these sites in Niagara County. In the coming years, this project will exceed $500 million.

Seaway Industrial Park in Tonawanda: $2,000,000. The site served as a landfill accepting waste, including materials from Linde, which processed uranium ores under the Manhattan Project. Funding will support construction of the landfill cap.

Tonawanda Landfill in Tonawanda: $100,000. The site accepted municipal waste from the mid-1930s through 1989, and was granted FUSRAP status due to its proximity to the Linde FUSRAP site. Remedial action was taken in previous years. Today, portions of the property is known as the North Youngmann Commerce Center, which is home to manufacturing companies and other businesses. Resources will support a five-year review and continue close out activities.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, under the leadership of Krug, has an area of responsibility that covers 38,000 square-miles, includes 35 harbors, and more than 1,600 miles of shoreline along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The Buffalo District also manages FUSRAP sites within the Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.

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