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Several Storms Have Caused Channel To Shallow As Debris And Other Materials Washed Over The Break Wall

Senators Say Quick Intervention From Feds Is Necessary – Build-Up Poses Economic And Safety Threat To Community; Failure To Act Could Make It Difficult For Harbor To Continue Operations 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Boater Safety And WNY Economy Depends On Barcelona Harbor Maintenance

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, following recent storms, today called on the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to direct any surplus programmatic funding towards 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. Schumer and Gillibrand said this sediment buildup poses a significant threat to the operational viability of the harbor and therefore the regional 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,” said Senator Schumer. “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. This vital body of water must be returned to its fully functioning depth and condition ASAP so the local community can breathe a little easier and use the harbor to its upmost potential, both for business and recreation.”

“New Yorkers are working hard to recover from the economic crisis and Barcelona Harbor is an essential economic driver for the surrounding communities — but frequent storms and rising water levels are risking its viability,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must ensure this vital resource remains fully operational to support boaters, fishers, and the regional economy along Lake Erie. 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 it was critical for the Army Corps of Engineers to heed their call as Barcelona Harbor is used by both commercial and recreational boaters and fishers and is one of the few harbors providing refuge to boaters between Erie, Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York. 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 fishers on Lake Erie, and lack of access to this significant economic asset would negatively impact Westfield and the surrounding towns and businesses.

Schumer has long advocated for the Town of Westfield on the federal level, delivering funding and pushing for proper maintenance of Barcelona Harbor. In December of 2016, a little over a year after Lake Erie’s waters severely damaged the harbor’s break wall, Schumer successfully secured $650,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the wall. In 2014, the senator urged the Army Corp of Engineers 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. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand urged the Army Corps of Engineers to allocate $750,000 in funding in the Fiscal Year 2021 work plan for Barcelona Harbor Maintenance Dredging.

Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand’s letter to the Army Corp of Engineers appears below:

Dear Lt. Gen. Spellmon,     

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.