City seeks funds for retaining wall

OBSERVER File Photo The retaining wall on Lakefront Boulevard in Dunkirk was battered by storms in the fall and suffered seriuous damage.

Last week, members of the Dunkirk Department of Public Works met with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the New York State Emergency Management Association and the New York State Division of Emergency Services about reimbursement for repairs to the destroyed railing of the retaining wall bordering Lake Erie on Lakefront Boulevard in the city.

“We had a meeting with FEMA which will be the primary funder for rebuilding this,” Director of Public Works Randy Woodbury stated. “The storm that ravaged New York in November was declared by the President of the United States as a natural disaster. It required the presidential signature to do that and we (New York state) had to have over $30 million in damage throughout the state and New York had about $50 million.”

Woodbury went on to say that the city is requesting $2 million of that federal aid to fix the wall and so far the meetings, in his opinion, have been very progressive.

“We have an engineer on board that has designed a fix,” Woodbury added. “They want to fast track it to get it repaired by June, the mayor (Wilfred Rosas) would like it fixed by Memorial Day, which is relatively the same time period. We’re on track funding wise and engineering wise; as soon as we get a break in the weather to start rebuilding it, we will.”

So far, the wall has been evaluated and a design is ready to go out to bid. According to Woodbury, the wall will look exactly the same, but it’s going to be put together better.

The retaining wall, which was hit hard in a storm on Halloween last year, had already been damaged in a previous storm a few days prior. The one-ton capstones in the first storm were moved in some places by as much as a foot, with connecting ribar snapped in two. During Halloween’s high winds, which topped 65 miles per hour at one point, the wall’s railing was completely ripped apart.

At that time, Woodbury commented on the gravity-style construction used, stating “the foundation is solid and held up well, however this gravity design is not good for our area.” Gravity construction basically means that the entire railing system was held together using the weight of the blocks themselves; nothing was used to connect the blocks to the foundation.

“What happened was that the waves blew up the wall from underneath, catching the capstones like a sail and lifting them off,” Woodbury had said. “They basically acted like a surfboard, which is why they all came off and landed together for the most part.”

Not long after the storm, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the area. That gives Dunkirk an opportunity to receive emergency funds from the state, along with what it gets from the federal government.