"We finally got the permit from New York State DEC to get in the creek and dredge it," French said. "Then we were told we had to wait for another permit to be able to dump what we take out of the creek onto Salt Point. We waited a couple of weeks for that, and now we're told we have to wait for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers."
French says he has been given a lot of reasons for the holdups over the three years since he applied for the permits. At one point State officials feared the spot on Salt Point designated for dumping the gravel had been a native American burial ground, but later they withdrew their objection.
We've had numerous delays. We really can't do anything until we get all those permits, and people who live in Myers are upset because they know sooner or later they're going to have problems. We've been lucky so far.
As ice forms at the mouth of Salmon Creek it backs up along Myers Park and Salt Point until it gets to a railroad trestle, and then to the Myers Road bridge. Salmon creek narrows on the curve between the road bridge and the trestle. A huge gravel bar has been pushed up over the last ten years, narrowing the creek to a small channel.
Because so much gravel has accumulated on either side of the creek, the stream near the trestle is only about five feet wide. Ice grows at this point, sometimes creating a dam more than six feet high from the water to the trestle itself. That forces the water along the sides, which threatens nearby homes and the parks with flooding.
Ice forms a block more than six feet high until it begins to hit the railroad trestle. Then it builds up toward the road bridge. A couple of years ago the ice reached the trestle and Norfolk Southern Railroad brought in an excavator to dig a trench that would let the water out.
"It freezes from the bottom and works its way up," French says. "Of course there is still water flowing underneath it. It just keeps building up farther and farther. Especially in a cold winter with heavy snow you get a big runoff there in the late winter. That's when we have some serious problems with flooding."
The Town is only permitted to remove gravel that is six inches or more above the water line. That will widen the path where water can flow when the water rises later in the season. Now is the perfect time to dredge because the water is at its lowest, meaning the most gravel can be removed. But the window for doing the work is narrow: it is only allowed between November 1 and March 15.
French says that despite having two of the three required permits in hand, the Town has not been informed how far toward the lake it will be allowed to dredge. He says he hopes to get a joint decision from the DEC and Army Corps of Engineers by this Fall. In the meantime he has had a crew ready to begin the work for more than a week, but his hands are tied until the final permit comes in. He says he spoke to
Additionally French has not been told how long the Army Corps of Engineers permit will extend. The DEC permits allow the Town to work in the creek until 2016, plenty of time to complete all of the work. But that is only good if the third permit allows work in the same time period.
"If we didn't need all this permitting it would already be done," said Lansing Supervisor Kathy Miller. "It's tough working with New York State even when you know what you are doing is right and I think they know it is right."
French says that in his 36 years in the Highway Department it's been done three times in the past. The restrictions on dredging may not be enough to prevent flooding in the worst case. But French says it is worth doing.
"It'll definitely help," he says. "There still could be flooding, but it's going to help us and help the people in Myers."