IRVING - Rep. Tom Reed visited several sites Tuesday, including Cattaraugus Creek in Irving, with Brigadier General Margaret Burcham to discuss a federal water bill that could help with dredging and eliminating invasive species.
Last year, the issue of dredging Cattaraugus Creek was brought up at Hanover Town Board meetings. The issue then and the issue now is still funding for the project.
Fishermen are worried that the shallowness of the water in certain parts of the creek will cost them business.
OBSERVER Photo by Jasmine Willis
From Left: Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello, United States Army Corps of Engineers Brigadier General Margaret Burcham and Rep. Tom Reed discuss Chautauqua County dredging projects at the Hidden Harbor Marina Tuesday afternoon.
Local businesses are also concerned about the loss of tourism and visitors no longer wanting to rent cottages near Lake Erie because the water is too shallow to launch their boats.
Chautauqua County Legislator George Borrello spoke of the danger that comes from flooding and how debris from the lake can damage residents' properties. He said this isn't just the issue of shallowness but also flooding.
The original design of the harbor at Sunset Bay was set in the '80s and started as a safe harbor refuge for boats.
The big topic Tuesday was Barcelona Harbor, which was awarded funding for its dredging from Hurricane Sandy Relief and is scheduled to be dredged in the summer of 2014.
Because dredging is very expensive, the idea is to offer the help of the contractor for Barcelona Harbor to Dunkirk and Chautauqua County if funding can be found.
Borrello said the goal is to "piggy-back" onto the Barcelona Harbor project so that the equipment will still be in the area, meaning a cost savings for Dunkirk and Hanover. If this were to happen then all dredging projects could begin in summer 2014.
Reed said he liked what he heard at Tuesday's meeting and is looking forward to "working together" to make this a "win-win for everyone" involved.
The proposed federal water bill would cover the $300,000 fee for the equipment to move from Barcelona Harbor to Dunkirk and Cattaraugus Creek to dredge. A decision to fund the project is expected to be made by January.
"We have been working really hard to get this done in the last couple of years," Borrello said. "It has been a long road."
U.S Army Corps. of Engineers Operations Branch Chief Joshua Feldmann said he thinks dredging won't completely solve the problem and if the bill were to pass he believes they could come up with other solutions to help fix the problem.
Step one is to get the bill passed and step two is to come up with the funding. The operation is to find funds for the small harbors to get them all ready for tourism season.
"The higher priority in my opinion is to keep people safe and make sure they keep their livelihood," Reed said. "The life blood of the community is tourism and people's livelihoods depend on it."
Burcham said she found 39 different invasive species that could threaten the Great Lakes, so part of the funding will go to getting rid of these threats and keeping them from getting into the lakes.
When asked how the community can help in getting the funding by the summer 2014 deadline, Reed said they are already doing it.
"People need to speak up like they have been doing and make their voices loud," Reed said. "It is amazing how well people can work together and coordinate."