Elma officials are hoping a new mitigation plan to prevent the flooding and erosion caused by two sand bars in Buffalo Creek will get the attention of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which they say has prevented the town from dealing with the problem.
Supervisor Dennis Powers said that, years ago, the town took care of the sand bars itself by periodically removing debris from the creek.
But in recent years, the town has been unable to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers to do the preventive work, and the sand bars keep getting bigger.
The town wants to act before it encounters the same kind of flooding problems that ravaged West Seneca a few weeks ago.
The town board expects to approve the plan from the Erie County Office of Emergency Management at its meeting Wednesday, and officials hope that action might get the attention of the Army Corps.
“Although jams from ice, debris and tree branches can form anywhere along Buffalo Creek, there are two major areas in Elma that need attention and are instrumental in causing periodic flooding and deterioration of shoreline,” Powers said.
One sand bar builds up at a creek bend near Creek Road Town Park and has caused flooding of the ball diamonds, a new playground and other areas almost every spring, he said. A second sand bar west of the Winspear area needs work, too, Powers said, recalling that firefighters had to use a boat to rescue residents living along the creek bank in 2009 and that extensive property damage has occurred.
“Our hands are tied, as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Conservation are now in charge of waterways. We have notified them of our problems with flooding, but it falls on deaf ears,” a frustrated Powers said. “The Army Corps of Engineers are holding us hostage.”
“We want a plan for maintenance regarding sediment and debris removal, which will be done in a timely manner, whether it’s us, the Corps or if we have to hire workers,” he added. “I am looking out for the residents’ property loss so what happened to residents recently in West Seneca doesn’t happen in Elma. If we experience a sudden warm thaw with a heavy rain on top of all this snow, we could be in trouble.”
Powers said that, decades ago, the town Highway Department took care of the sand bar problem by periodically removing the debris and using the gravel and sediment to fix town roads.
“It worked and saved money, too,” he said. “But now the Army Corps of Engineers won’t allow our Highway Department a permit to do this.”
He said at least 200 truckloads of sand and debris need to be removed, but the town can’t get a response from the Army Corps.