WNY Outdoors Blog

Friday, October 19, 2012

Great Lakes

Repairs Needed at Great Lakes Harbors & Piers
OLCOTT, NY - There's no question that the Great Lakes are one of this region's biggest draws.

But, there are concerns that the "pier quality" is no longer up to par.
The issue is that the area right along the shoreline needs to be dredged and it's needed the work for decades.

Many harbor users are also complaining of the fact that some harbors are not being properly maintained. Vince Pierleoni is a charter boat operator and fisher. He's been on the job for 28 years and says the water levels are the lowest he's seen.
"We're running out of water and the high spots in the harbor are creating a hardship on the boaters and in that is the economics of the south shore Ontario," he said. 

Perhaps, the worst conditions can be found at recreational piers like Olcott harbor off Lake Ontario. This is where boaters and fishers find bulks of sediment that need to destroyed. Conditions here have gotten so bad that fishers have been getting injured and damaging their boats. It's been at least ten years since Olcott has had any attention.
"So that makes the low water situation that much more perilous for boaters," said Pierleoni.
Federal law says that the Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for making sure the channels and piers are safe by dredging the water or breaking up the sediments. And putting down breakwaters that would protect the piers.
"Dredging will help take care of shoaling. Dredging helps take care of the sediments that build up on the bottom, thereby restoring the channel to its authorized depth," said Bob Remmers, operations chief of the Army Corps of Engineers at the Buffalo district. 
"And we're able to do that as funding allows and as it stands right now, we don't have the funding to do the dredging," said Mike Asquith, a civil engineer of the agency.
In a letter sent to the Army Corps, a group of U.S. Senators including Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand say that the corps should "use a larger portion of the $2.4 billion budget that Congress allocated for the Corps toward Great Lakes projects."
In response, the Army Corps says that it cannot upgrade the pier unless Congress and the president, specifically needs to approve the project, which the Corps says has not been done. 
In addition, to the personal impact to fishers like Pierleoni, there's also an economic impact to places like Olcott because the money isn't being spent. Niagara County tourism officials say the county relies on $30 million of economic activity that it's not getting because harbors like Olcott haven't been dredged.
The corps says that a foot of water on average has dropped from piers like Olcott.

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