WESTFIELD — New York’s two U.S. senators are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to direct any surplus funding toward an emergency dredging of Barcelona Harbor.
Due to rising water levels and increasingly frequent storms washing sediment over the break wall, the channel has increasingly shallowed and is becoming shoaled in.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, both Democrats, say this sediment buildup poses a significant threat to the operational viability of the harbor and therefore the Chautauqua County area’s economy.
“Barcelona Harbor is an economic lifeline for the surrounding community, but recent sediment accumulation has created significant concerns about continued operations, making it all the more vital for the Army Corp of Engineers to prioritize dredging the federally-maintained waterway,” Schumer said. “The harbor is one of the few safe harbor marinas along the Lake Erie shoreline, making its availability all the more important as a critical refuge for boaters.”
Schumer said the harbor must be returned to its fully functioning depth and condition so the local community can use it for business and recreation.
Gillibrand said New Yorkers are working hard to recover from the economic crisis and Barcelona Harbor is an essential economic driver for the surrounding communities.
“We must ensure this vital resource remains fully operational to support boaters, fishers, and the regional economy along Lake Erie,” she said. “I’m urging the Army Corp of Engineers to expedite funding to the emergency dredging of Barcelona Harbor so that the local communities can rebuild a strong economy.”
The senators said Failure to act would seriously impact the safety of boaters on Lake Erie. Additionally, the harbor serves as a launching point for commercial and recreational fishing on the lake, and lack of access to this significant economic asset would negatively impact Westfield and the surrounding towns and businesses.
Schumer said he has long advocated for the Town of Westfield on the federal level, delivering funding and pushing for proper maintenance of Barcelona Harbor. In December 2016, a little over a year after Lake Erie’s waters severely damaged the harbor’s breakwall, Schumer secured $650,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the wall.
In 2014, the senator urged the Corps to finish fully dredging back to pre-storm conditions, six Upstate New York harbors, including Barcelona Harbor, that were eligible for supplemental appropriations tied to Hurricane Sandy.Schumer and Gillibrand urged the Corps to allocate $750,000 in funding in the Fiscal Year 2021 work plan for Barcelona Harbor maintenance dredging.
Schumer and Gillibrand’s letter to the Corps states:
We write today on behalf of the Town of Westfield, New York in the hopes that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers will repurpose surplus programmatic funding to dredge the federal portion of the Barcelona Harbor. Without access to the federally owned and Corps-controlled channel, Westfield and the surrounding area risks losing one of its greatest economic assets, and Lake Erie also risks losing another safe harbor along its American shoreline.
Recently, the rising water levels on Lake Erie and unpredictable weather have caused a significant build-up of sediment in this channel. With the continuing ice melt and spring storms, the accumulation of this sediment will only get worse. This raises significant concerns about the operational viability of the harbor and its continued success. Commercial and recreational fishing on Lake Erie is a significant economic asset to Westfield and the surrounding towns and businesses. Furthermore, the Lake Erie shoreline includes very few safe harbor marinas between Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York. Barcelona Harbor’s availability provides a crucial refuge for boaters and its operation must not be interrupted.
We believe that this situation meets all necessary criteria for the use of emergency allocations and such programmatic funding should be directed as soon as possible. Please let us know if you have any questions.