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Hopes for breakwater hinge on federal funding

Niagara County officials are hoping for federal funds to revive hopes of constructing a breakwater off Olcott Harbor.

The County Legislature is to vote Tuesday on a resolution asking Congress to appropriate more than $4.6 million to pay for the project in Lake Ontario.

The breakwater would reduce the power of waves crashing into the 18-foot-deep harbor. It would be 600 feet long and be set 200 feet off the end of the existing federal piers. Some docking facilities for visiting boats would be added to the harbor.

"When you get between the piers, it's sometimes as rough as being out in the lake," said Legislator Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport.

Local leaders have dreamed of a breakwater as far back as the 1960s, but funding has always fallen through.

A $23 million Olcott Harbor project was part of an $800 million state public works bond issue that voters defeated in 1992. When county officials held a meeting in Olcott to lobby congressional staff members in 2003, the breakwater was estimated to cost only $1.2 million.

Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, whose district includes Olcott, credited Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, with helping to revive interest in the project by obtaining $30,000 in 2004 to fund a feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Leaders of the local sport fishing industry long have asserted that a breakwater would improve their business, too.

Another thing that helps fishing is the trout and salmon hatchery in Eighteen Mile Creek, funded by fees paid by entrants in Lake Ontario fishing tournaments. The pen-rearing project is meant to improve survival rates for stocked sport fish.

However, the hatchery needs a new pump, and the Legislature is to vote Tuesday on Syracuse's resolution to spend $1,000 to help pay for it from a trust account controlled jointly by the Legislature and the Niagara County Fisheries Board.

The check is to be sent to the Lake Ontario Sportfishing Stakeholders Council to help it buy the pump. Also, the Legislature is to send $1,300 from the trust fund to the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association to cover other expenses at the hatchery this year.

The lawmakers also are expected to accept a $30,000 state "member item" from State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, to help pay for the county's sport fishing promotion campaign this year.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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