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Drainage project is a model of cooperation

Niagara County, the Town of Wheatfield and the City of North Tonawanda are teaming up on a drainage project that is meant to alleviate springtime flooding in a Wheatfield subdivision and on Witmer Road in North Tonawanda.

Two County Legislature committees last week passed an agreement allowing Wheatfield to dig a ditch across county-owned property to access a couple of gigantic -- but unused -- storm sewer lines in North Tonawanda.

Wheatfield Highway Superintendent Arthur F. Kroening said Friday he hopes all the work can be completed this fall.

Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the town paid the city $50,000 last year for access to twin 102-inch sewer lines. That's 8 1/2 feet in diameter.

They run under River Road and empty into the Niagara River. Or at least, they would if they weren't blocked up with concrete at the eastern end.

Kroening said the town will dig the ditch itself and has obtained $14,754 worth of drain pipe. But a contractor will have to be hired to break through the concrete and make the connection to the 102-inch storm drains.

The work is meant to relieve annual floods in the Willow Lake subdivision off Krueger Road, particularly on Wilrose Court.

"These people for 15 or 20 years have had to put up with flooded roads. We don't want to have to go through another spring of this," Wheatfield Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said.

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt said, "We have some drainage issues, flooding issues, of our own on Witmer Road. We saw an opportunity to help each other out."

Ortt said the city's project will help with conditions in 12 to 15 backyards, while alleviating flooding the city blames on runoff from the Niagara County Refuse Disposal District's closed landfill in Wheatfield, just over the city line.

With the easement the county is allowing for Wheatfield to dig its drainage ditch across Refuse District property, North Tonawanda can use the same ditch. Wheatfield is paying the engineering costs, Cliffe said.

Cliffe said the town will be deepening and cleaning about 1,000 feet of existing ditch.

Cliffe said Forest City Development, former owners of The Summit mall, owns property in the area. An easement will be needed from the company, too.

Ortt said the 102-inch pipes cost $3 million when the city built them 15 or 20 years ago.

He said the city will bill Wheatfield if the flow through the pipes is heavier than expected.

Cliffe said, "That outfall has been there a long time under multiple supervisors, multiple mayors. I sat down with Rob Ortt, and we made sense out of it."

"Bob had come to me early in both our terms of office," Ortt said. Both men were elected in 2009.

Cliffe credited County Legislator Phillip R. "Russ" Rizzo, who is running for North Tonawanda 1st Ward alderman this year, for helping get the ball rolling.