Port Bay channel dredging

A look at a past channel-dredging project at Port Bay in Wolcott.

LYONS — Counties along the Lake Ontario shoreline, including Wayne, are banding together to address the dredging of harbors and the channels into those embayments.

On Tuesday, the Wayne County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to enter into an intermunicipal agreement for a regional dredging management plan. It would be for the harbors on the south shore of Lake Ontario.

Consistent dredging has been an issue in Wayne County for many years. Officials have expressed concern that some watercraft have had difficulty navigating the county’s bays because of sediment buildup.

“The parties jointly developed a Regional Dredging Management Plan in 2015 detailing needs to provide a comprehensive approach to the on-going dredging needs for harbor access channels along the south shore of Lake Ontario,” said Brian Pincelli, who oversees economic development and planning in Wayne County.

The resolution passed Tuesday notes that data gathered in 2015 indicates “small harbors serving recreational boating along the south shore of Lake Ontario generate approximately $94 million annually in economic activity, support over 1,350 jobs, and provide sales tax revenues of approximately $7.6 million annually for the local counties and New York State.”

The resolution also notes that these bays provide “safe harbors of refuge for vessels on Lake Ontario,” and that they “can only provide these important benefits if adequate water depths are maintained in their access channels by regular, periodic dredging of accumulated sediments.”

Orleans County is leading the reestablishment of the Regional Dredging Council, which also include Wayne, Niagara, Cayuga and Monroe counties. Each will provide funding for administrative and other costs associated with the project, Pincelli said.

He pointed to the 2015 report indicating dredging needs “are either not being met or are being provided through private efforts, sometimes with sporadic support from local governments. Even the channels originally constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with federal funds, which are supposed to be maintained by the Corps of Engineers, are not automatically or regularly maintained due to budget constraints. This situation will continue to worsen since Corps of Engineers funding for the dredging of recreational channels is not expected to be restored.”

Dredging has been done through a $15 million fund under the state’s Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative, or REDI.

“That work is being finalized and responsibility for management of the harbors is being turned back to the municipalities,” Pincelli said.

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