With 20 harbors dredged, state hands off future sediment digging to counties

Photos by Tom Rivers: An excavator scoops sediment from the Oak Orchard Harbor in August 2021. The Oak Orchard was one of 20 harbors or channels dredged as part of the Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 September 2022 at 9:02 am

ALBION – State officials have passed the baton for future dredging of the Oak Orchard Harbor and other southshore harbors and channels.

The state spent $15 million clearing sediment from 20 harbors and channels. The dredging projects were part of the state’s $300 million Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), which has been focused on repairing and building resiliency in communities hit by flooding in 2017 and 2019.

The harbors and channels will continue to be dredged but the counties are working on an alliance to do the work in the future. The state will hand over their engineering reports on how to best do the work.

“We need to maintain it,” Lynne Johnson, Orleans County Legislature chairwoman, said about the harbors. “I am so excited that the counties want to work together.”

Johnson said the counties along the southshore should put dredging in their budgets and work together on a contract for digging out sediment to get a better price.

State officials were in Orleans County on Tuesday to announce the completion of 20 harbor and channels along the southshore. Future dredging will be managed by the counties. Pictured from left include Carolyn Ryan, REDI program manager; Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey; Jeanette Moy, commissioner of State Office of General Services; and Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature.

Oak Orchard was dredged last year through REDI, and was previously done in 2014. If the harbors and channels aren’t dredged there will be a buildup of sediment and silt that can make them impassable for larger boats.

County officials have previously said the harbor should be cleared of sentiment every three to five years, but that can vary depending on the weather. Johnson said the alliance will work to have the harbors and channels dredged on a regular basis.

Jeanette Moy, OGS commissioner, said the county officials teamed with the state to get the harbors dredged in a $15 million initiative. Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey is in back.

Jeanette Moy, commissioner of State Office of General Services, was in Albion on Tuesday with other state officials, including leaders of REDI. The state worked with the state Department of Parks, Department of State and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the projects, and is handing over detailed engineering reports about the channels and harbors.

Moy said the reports show how to best access the waterway, contend with wildlife and connect with property owners on the dredging.

“This is public service at its best,” she said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday also praised the effort in getting the 20 harbors and channels dredged.

“I am proud to announce the completion of the Regional Dredging Project, a comprehensive measure which included the dredging of 20 vital navigation channels within the region, proving essential to protecting critical aquatic and coastal habitats of the region, while also boosting tourism by ensuring safe recreational access for boaters,” Hochul said in a statement.

The dredging projects at eight counties included:

  • Salmon River/Port Ontario, Sandy Pond Outlet (Oswego County)
  • Olcott Harbor, Golden Hill State Park (Niagara County)
  • Oak Orchard Harbor, Johnson Creek (Orleans County)
  • Sandy Creek, Braddock Bay, Long Pond Outlet, Irondequoit Bay (Monroe County)
  • Bear Creek Harbor, Pultneyville, East Bay, Port Bay, Blind Sodus (Wayne County)
  • Clayton French Creek Marina, Henderson “The Cut” (Jefferson County)
  • Ogdensburg “City Front Channel,” Morristown Navigation Channel (St. Lawrence County)
  • Little Sodus Bay (Cayuga County)

The harbors included in the Regional Dredging Project along the southern shore of Lake Ontario are estimated to generate $94 million in economic activity, with $3.8 million in state tax revenues and an additional $3.8 million for local communities annually, supporting 1,350 jobs, Hochul’s Office said.