Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday to develop an ice control plan to ease the flooding that has plagued West Seneca residents living along Buffalo Creek.
Schumer did not mince words as he stood just a few feet from the fast-flowing creek outside the Burchfield Nature and Art Center. “It’s no way to live,” he said, flanked by town officials and two affected residents of the Lexington Green neighborhood off Mineral Springs Road.
“Study it, find the best solution and then implement it for ice control in the Buffalo Creek. Nothing is more important than having a long-term solution,” he said.
The massive ice jam in the creek Wednesday was estimated by one neighbor to be as much as 4 to 6 feet deep in spots.
David Monolopolus, whose home and yard sustained about $35,000 damage this winter, recalled what it was like to see water come up to his front porch and rise to the level of his stomach in his side yard.
Monolopolus, who lives 400 feet from the creek, said his 20 cords of firewood for next year have been scattered throughout his neighborhood by the water.
The flooding, which was at its worst Jan. 11 and returned, bringing comparatively minor damage, in February, has caused damage estimated to exceed $700,000 to homes and property in the Lexington Green area.
“These people have had water rushing into their homes,” Schumer said. “We all know our home is our piece of the rock. When your home is in danger, it sends a shudder of fear down your insides.”
Schumer called on the Corps of Engineers to prioritize funding for projects that could help with the Buffalo Creek flooding, noting how the corps has done that successfully in Cazenovia Creek with steel and concrete pylons, sediment removal and bank stabilization. He said the corps should be working to control ice in the creek before jams even form.
The senator also urged the Marine Corps to consider bringing in and permanently storing an amphibious vehicle that could be used to break up ice in the creek, limiting the potential damage of future ice jams.
“The time is now to get federal funding flowing to Buffalo Creek to deal with these dangerous and unpredictable ice jams,” Schumer said.
As Schumer was in town to fight for help for West Seneca, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, announced Wednesday that the state Department of Transportation will reconstruct the 103-year-old Harlem Road Bridge over Buffalo Creek in a $12 million project to include a design that will be more resistant to ice jam flooding.
The replacement span will be wider and have one pier instead of four to allow for improved flow beneath the bridge.
Emergency sandbags and pumps have been put in place in anticipation of rain and the spring thaw.
The town took it a step further earlier this month by building a wall – spanning 860 feet and containing hundreds of speciality sandbags filled with recycled concrete donated by local companies – between the creek and the Lexington Green area.
Residents on Wednesday already were on high alert for more flooding problems, as the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook warning that warmer temperatures this week could bring more snow melt to the region, along with light rain, a combination that raises the risk of more ice jams and related flooding.
“With the rain coming, some of the banks could fall in, and we could get it all over again,” Monolopolus said. “What are you going to do?”
West Seneca Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said she remains cautiously optimistic that conditions will change.
“We’ve done everything as a municipality to sound the alarm,” she said.
“The recovery has been slow because of the damage. This is not over until that creek has been mitigated with cleanup.”