Collins joins local officials in pressing for harbor dredging
Congressman Chris Collins
WILSON – Following a tour of Olcott and Wilson harbors, Congressman Chris Collins (R-Clarence) joined with state and local leaders to highlight the urgent need to maintain and protect local harbors along Lake Ontario’s south shoreline.
Collins highlighted the important role these harbors play in the region’s economy and the need for continued and consistent harbor maintenance.
“These harbors play a critical role in the economy of Western New York through both the direct and spin-off benefits of seasonal recreational activities and the charter fishing industry,” Collins said on Wednesday. “Today I join my colleagues in both state and local government to call for both the continued maintenance and protection that is necessary to keep these harbors viable.”
Collins has pushed the Army Corps of Engineers to begin the long delayed dredging of the harbors. Dredging would remove the sediment build up that narrows a harbor’s channel dimension and creates unsafe navigation conditions for both commercial and recreational boating.
Orleans County officials have been pressing federal officials and the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Oak Orchard Harbor, which was last done a decade ago.
“The dredging of these harbors is long overdue, and is needed in order to maintain and maximize the harbors’ economic and recreational importance,” Collins said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to dredge in Oak Orchard, Olcott and Wilson harbors in 2014.
While in Wilson on Wednesday, Collins also voiced his opposition to the International Joint Commission plan, which calls for altering water levels for Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. The IJC is a joint body between the U.S. and Canada that controls water levels between the two countries.
Orleans County officials have protested the IJC plan, saying it would increase erosion along shorelines, lowering property values and having a negative impact on the region’s economy by affecting recreational and commercial boating.
“We need a unified front when it comes to advocating for the needs of our lakefront communities and harbors,” said State Sen. George Maziarz (R-Newfane). “Cleaning out these waterways so more boaters can use themand advocating to the IJC on behalf of lakefront property ownersare high priorities for us as representatives.”
Olcott won the “Ultimate Fishing Town” contest last year with Point Breeze winning the title this year. That raises the profile for other communities as fishing destinations. However, the potential is limited when the harbors are not regularly dredged.
Orleans County Legislator Lynne Johnson attended the news conference Wednesday in Wilson with Collins. Johnson is the county’s representative on the newly created Niagara-Orleans Regional Alliance.
“We need to stand united with our neighbors to the west on these two very important issues as we work for funding to dredge Oak Orchard Harbor for boating and tourism and save our property owners along the lake from further erosion from altering the lake levels,” she said.