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Orleans, 3 other counties work on dredging plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 January 2018 at 9:10 am
File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from August 2014.

File photo: The dredging barge is near the breakwall at the Oak Orchard Harbor in this photo from August 2014.

ALBION – Orleans County has committed $5,000 towards the implementation of a regional harbor dredging plan that also includes Niagara, Cayuga and Wayne counties.

Orleans is taking the lead on the regional dredging plan with the four counties on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

The counties have developed a dredging plan for the harbors, which collectively generate $94 million in economic activity and support 1,350 jobs, according to a study commissioned by the counties.

The $5,000 from Orleans and contributions from the other counties will help with the first steps of the plan. The counties want to assure regular dredging of the harbors and need to work U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Right now there isn’t regular federal funding set aside for the harbor dredging.

The harbors haven’t been dredged on a timely basis the past decade, leaving a buildup of sediment and silt that can make some channels impassable for larger boats.

The Oak Orchard Harbor was last dredged in 2014 when federal funds from Superstorm Sandy were directed for the job. Oak Orchard went 10 years between dredgings. County officials said the harbor should be cleared of sentiment every three to five years.

Orleans is partnering with other southshore counties for a plan for cyclical dredging.

The Army Corps of Engineers has been determining the dredging schedule, and in recent years the Corps has given priority to busier harbors, rather than those that are primary for recreation, such as Oak Orchard’s.

A clogged Oak Orchard Harbor makes the county’s fishing and recreational boating industries vulnerable. The harbor generates about $7 million in economic activity for the county, resulting in 117 direct and indirect jobs. It also yields $283,484 in sales tax revenue for the county with the same sales tax for the state, according to a consultant, Frank Sciremammano of FES Environmental and Marine Consultants.

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