Priorities dictating U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' release of water from Allegheny Reservoir at Kinzua Dam has lowered the water level several feet, closing Allegany State Park's boat launch and heralding the end of the season at Cattaraugus County's Onoville Marina just north of the Pennsylvania border.
But the impact to county tourism revenues resulting from the corps' practice also sparked a measure of concern from county Planning Board members who held their August business meeting at the facility last week.
Jeffrey Davis, recreation manager at the 400-dock marina, described the history of the reservoir and outlined plans for a grant-funded expansion of the facility. He said that the marina will probably close on Labor Day and that low water levels have shut down Allegany State Park's Friends Boat Launch.
"They're farther upstream than we are," said Davis, adding that the marina is still open for business but within a week or 10 days the conditions will be approaching minimum operating levels.
"When Congress authorized legislation to construct Kinzua (Dam), the primary function was flood control and the second and third (were) low-flow augmentation and water quality. Fourth was recreation," Davis said.
To change the system would take an act of Congress, he added.
The corps will manipulate water levels in the reservoir for safety reasons if flooding is threatened. On the other hand, late-season releases from the dam augment dwindling levels for downstream water users along the Allegheny River, which is part of a watershed under the jurisdiction of the corps' Pittsburgh District.
According to John Sayegh, director of the county's Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, the board wants the corps to change its 30-year-old priorities to give more weight to tourism and its income potential.
The board decided to express its concerns to Rep. Amo Houghton, R-Corning, and to organize a joint meeting with officials from a sister planning board in Pittsburgh.
An unsuccessful meeting with the corps held several months ago included representatives of the Seneca Nation, Allegany State Park and the marina, said Sayegh.
"The Seneca Nation of Indians asked the corps to look into matter, keep the water at a certain level and were turned flat down," he said.
Meanwhile, planned improvements at the Marina will continue under a $175,000 grant from the state environmental bond act, with upgrades to the dock system slated for completion by next Memorial Day and work on a new shower facility and sewage system to begin in spring.
The board decided to add the update of the Marina Master Plan, which was written in the early 1970s, to its Three-Year Plan, for implementation in the year 2000.