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West Lake sewer extension advances

Anyone driving along Route 394 these days from Ashville to Stow will see the construction work going on to install the new sewer system up the west side of Chautauqua Lake. Pipe is stacked alongside the road and there is a stop/go traffic light to control one-lane traffic on the highway.

Thanks to work done last fall and winter, a lot of the pipe for the laterals has already been laid and buried along the roads directly in front of the lake and on the roads leading down to it. Restoration work in these areas has already started.

The other good news is that county leaders have been planning ahead for Phase II of the system which would run from Stow up to Prendergast Point, thus completing sewers on the west side of the Lake.

Infrastructure projects like this take a lot of time and pre-planning. Engineering has to be done, new sewer district lines have to be determined, grant and permit applications must be made and, in the end, the project must be deemed to be affordable for residents through an opinion issued by the state comptroller.

You have to give the county credit — they have been spending the time and effort to get this one. There has also been a realization that “now is the time.” There are federal and state monies available for clean water infrastructure today that haven’t been seen for decades and won’t be here in future years. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which we need to take advantage of.

The first step in starting Phase II has been to engage the work of an engineering firm to complete a preliminary engineering study for the project. Now that this has been completed, and the Sewer District Board and the County Sewer Agency have recommended the project, the County Legislature must schedule a public hearing on the matter-and then approve the project.

Once the County Legislature approves going ahead, grant applications can be submitted for the state and federal grants necessary to finance it.

An infrastructure sewage collection system of this magnitude really is beyond the financial capacity of Chautauqua County residents alone. Without state and federal aid this project would not be happening.

There is a lot of credit to be shared for what is happening — including the fact that the county, back in the 1980s, built a sewage treatment plant in Celoron which has the capacity to accept sewage from around the lake. There were critics at the time who thought the plant was “over-built,” but now we can see that the decision back then to build a large enough plant was a good one.

So, what does the timeline look like? If things keep going well this summer, the new phase I of the system up to Stow should be operating by 2023. If the engineering, funding and required approvals are received, construction of Phase II of the project could begin the following year which means that possibly by 2025 or 2026, we will have completed sewers around the west side of Chautauqua Lake.

If I am alive and kicking then, I hope that we can have a big picnic and ribbon cutting to celebrate the accomplishment! In the meantime, I will try and keep you posted as progress is being made.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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