Supervisor Marc R. Smith said doing something about flooding problems along Donner Creek is one of his top priorities for next year, and this week the town applied for two grants from the state Emergency Management Office to deal with the situation.
One would pay for a study of town culverts near the creek; the other would help pay for digging detention ponds that would hold flood water temporarily and allow it to drain away gradually.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation considers such ponds a solution to the backyard flooding of homes along the creek. The town would rather dredge the creek, but the DEC won't allow it.
"I hope they'll allow us a test area between Locust Street and Beattie Avenue," Smith said Friday. He said the town is examining various approaches to provide some relief, even checking with the Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District on types of plantings that could prevent erosion of the creek banks after "an aggressive cleaning."
"I wouldn't be surprised to see this be a five-year procedure. It's been 30 years in the making," Smith said.
DEC spokeswoman Terri Mucha said the department will allow "the limited clearing of some vegetation" in the creek, but only if the work is done from shore without disturbing the creek banks or bed.
Smith said that is nearly impossible.
"You've got to get a heavy piece of equipment into somebody's backyard," he said. "How do you not disturb the creek bed?"
The DEC, Mucha said, believes dredging would do environmental harm to the waterway and wouldn't accomplish the desired result.
"Just channeling the creek is going to increase your flow rate and make it more likely to flood," Mucha said. She added that the impact of increased flows downstream in Pendleton has to be considered.
Smith said late November's heavy rain gave him a chance to drive through the neighborhoods along Lincoln and Beattie avenues and check out the water flow.
He said he saw a culvert beneath Lincoln Avenue gushing water that flowed out of the City of Lockport. Smith estimated that it was "at least 1,000 gallons a minute. I don't want to hear any more complaints from the City of Lockport that we're impeding their flow."
The city has charged that the town blocked the culvert years ago, causing flooding in the southeastern corner of the city, which is part of the same flood plain occupied by the affected homes in the town.
This year, the city installed new pumps in a sewer lift station on Hoover Parkway, a block north of Lincoln Avenue. So far it seems to have alleviated the flooding common in that part of the city during heavy rains.
Smith said the town already has one detention pond in the area, a "long, thin one," and might seek to enlarge it.
Other items on Smith's priority list for next year include repairing sewer vents that have pulled away from residential connections, allowing ground water to leak into the sanitary sewers; providing emergency electrical sources for at least one town-owned building; updating the master plan and the zoning ordinance; and promoting the Gateway Corridor, or Transit North, plan for Route 78.