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Local leaders welcome deal that lets new Athol Springs breakwall project proceed

WBFO file photo

State and local officials welcomed news that the New York Department of Transportation and US Army Corps of Engineers have reached an agreement to construct a new breakwall along the Lake Erie shoreline near Route 5 in Athol Springs. Work could begin as early as this fall, officials suggested Thursday morning.

When high winds and waves crash into the current wall along the lakeshore in Athol Springs, some water sprays as far as the roadway which, in winter months, freezes and creates an icy glaze and a dangerous condition for traffic on the busy route. The updated breakwall design is said to include a 15-foot-wide splash apron which would offer further protection to motorists.

Several steps must first be completed, explained Ron Kozlowski with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

"We're going to start working through our contracting administration of the project, getting the paperwork together to be able to move and put that on the street," he said. "We have some environmental windows we need to work through when we're planning the construction of the project. We also have to look out for public safety, when we may have to shut down the public highway as it's getting constructed. We'll take that all into consideration We'll look toward moving that full implementation in the fall time frame."

Construction is expected to continue into the spring of 2020.

State Senator Chris Jacobs says just two weeks ago, the DOT was not communicating with the Army Corps of Engineers, with both sides in disagreement over language in the Project Partnering Agreement. US Senator Charles Schumer helped bring the sides into a deal, and also earlier this week announced he was able to secure additional funding that will allow the federal government to cover the full cost of the project.

Usually, Army Corps of Engineers projects utilize a formula in which Uncle Sam picks up 65 percent of the cost and the state or local government covers the remaining 35 percent. That additional funding secured by Schumer, Jacobs added, would only have been temporarily available and the money, had the DOT and USACE failed to reach an agreement, would have been lost to another project, perhaps out of state.

"That is locking in this money and assuring that this project is happening, and happening 100 percent paid by the federal government and not on the Hamburg taxpayers at all," Jacobs said.

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