Dollars for dredging sought

While it’s pretty much ice covered at the moment, the Dunkirk harbor and the need for dredging was a topic for discussion at Thursday’s meeting of the Common Council’s Economic Development Committee. A push is under way to get the harbor dredged this summer, in conjunction with dredging already set in Barcelona and planned for Hanover harbors.

Director of Planning and Development Steve Neratko told the committee the city will be looking to dredge a 200 foot by 300 foot area.

“It’s basically with the boat launch and the area to get out to the open harbor,” he explained. “It’s not going to include the Yacht Club and that whole area there which, while we would love to dredge it, it would be millions of dollars. … It is going to cost $140,000 to $150,000 to dredge that area, that 200 foot by 300 foot area and that is with some discounts we’d be receiving. The contractor is already in the area to work on Westfield and Cattaraugus Creek. … They’re looking to do their projects this year and we actually have a permit to do it that expires in August. While we are looking to renew that permit for another 10 years, it would be nice to get the work done while we know.”

Getting some of the county bed tax money is one goal for funding.

“We’ve been meeting with different folks from the county and different municipalities. In the last week we met with legislators (George) Borrello, (Keith) Ahlstrom and (Shaun) Heenan on a potential project they’re looking to do, where we would basically be asking for some additional funds from the county to complete a portion of this project. They’re looking at the potential of having maybe $50,000 to $90,000 there for us as well as for the other municipalities, so that cuts into it. There’s the possibility that we would be able to get some of the bed tax funds. They’re going to put in for that. I don’t necessarily think we need to push for it.”

Neratko added he and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce, “will probably be going to a meeting of the county legislature in the next month or so to discuss with them the importance, and to really push to see if we can get some sort of pre-notification that we would be eligible for these funds. We think that if we had to we could come up with $50,000, because we need to get it done.”

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked about the area at the foot of Main Street near the Steger Apartments.

“That would not be included,” Neratko replied.

Szukala then asked if that area could be included with the Lake Front Boulevard seawall project.

“It could be included in the larger project,” Neratko replied. “We wouldn’t be able to use the grant funds we’ve already received to do that work, but it could obviously be included in the bigger project.”

Neratko added the dredging was important because “we need to get the boats out. There’s been some boats that have gotten stuck and they need to go out and push them from the sandbar, so we’ll definitely look into at least that this year. Obviously, the whole thing needs to be redone.”

Kiyak asked when the answer to the bed tax request would be known.

“The application’s not actually due until June and it wouldn’t be awarded until next January. So that’s why they’re hoping the legislature can do something, maybe with some reserve funds that in the past have all gone to Chautauqua Lake. Maybe for a year they can be pushed this way,” Neratko replied. “They’re hopeful that maybe we can do something. Right now its more in their hands. Let’s see if they can come up with some money and in the time being we’ll look to see if we can come up with $50,000 at least. It is important.”

“It’s very important,” Kiyak echoed. “We can’t tout ourselves as ‘come to Dunkirk and launch your boat,’ if you can’t launch your boat.”

Kiyak called for putting money into a reserve fund for future dredging needs.

“If we know this is a known expense every five years or so we shouldn’t just ignore it,” she added.

The last dredging was done in 2009 when the area’s then congressman, Brian Higgins, secured some $1.196 million for dredging in the harbor with $376,000 from a House Energy and Water Bill and $820,000 through Recovery Act Funding. That 2009 project consisted of dredging the channel from the lake to the harbor along with inner channels. Prior to that 2009 work, the harbor had last been dredged in 2004.

The county legislature’s Planning and Economic Development committee has a proposed resolution to pledge $150,000 in “support of recreational channel dredging” that it will consider at its Feb. 19 meeting. “The fund balance in the 2 percent Lakes and Waterways reserve is approximately $163,000, and this project meets the criteria for use of these funds,” the resolution states.

Drawn at the request of legislators Borrello, Heenan, Ahlstrom, Terry Niebel and County Executive Vince Horrigan, it would then have to be passed by the full legislature, which is scheduled to meet Feb. 26. Ahlstrom told the OBSERVER the tax reserve money would provide $50,000 each for Barcelona, Dunkirk and Hanover.

“There were some other things we’re also working with the city on to try and come up with some other funds. We’ve already applied for some additional bed tax funding,” Ahlstrom added. “This is already going to have been agreed on if everything falls into place because the time line, I think they’re going to start by June 15 in Barcelona, and that’s the urgency behind this. The Corps of Engineers is contracted to come in and do the normal federal channel dredging in Barcelona. The communities can save quite a bit of the startup costs by having them here. So that’s why we’re trying to get this additional money to dredge the recreational channels.”

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