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Legislature will consider plan to cover cost of drainage ditches

The second part of a drainage plan affecting southern Wheatfield and the Witmer Road neighborhood in North Tonawanda will be on the Niagara County Legislature's agenda Tuesday.

The contract calls for the county Refuse Disposal District to pay the City of North Tonawanda $50,000 a year for five years to cover most or all of the expense of two new drainage ditches.

Dale W. Marshall, city engineer, said he expects the work will solve backyard flooding on Witmer Road, which has been a problem since the county opened a landfill in Wheatfield at the North Tonawanda border in 1968. The landfill is now capped.

"The county's admitting they're part of the problem and they want to be part of the solution," Marshall said.

"I've been working on the Witmer Road flooding problem since I was elected 1st Ward alderman in 2000," County Legislator Phillip R. "Russ" Rizzo said. "This was caused by the county putting that landfill in. There's no question in my mind. Before that, it was farmland."

"The landfill is blocking a portion of the former drainage way that formerly drained the backyards," said Richard P. Pope, director of the Refuse District.

Marshall said siting a landfill so close to a residential area probably couldn't happen under current environmental regulations.

"You would never get away with that by today's standards," he said. "They had no voice back in the '60s."

The new plan goes hand-in-hand with a Wheatfield project to connect drainage ditches to North Tonawanda's twin 8 1/2 -foot outfall pipes that run under River Road and empty into the Niagara River.

"The best $50,000 they ever spent," Marshall said of Wheatfield's payment for access to the city's 8 1/2 -foot outfall pipes.

On Sept. 6, the County Legislature approved an easement for Wheatfield to cross a corner of the county property to make the drainage connection.

It is expected to relieve flooding in residential subdivisions in southern Wheatfield.

At present, Marshall said, the only water draining through North Tonawanda's two huge pipes is runoff from the county landfill.

The city spent $3 million on the pipes in the early 1990s but has derived little benefit from them up until now.

Marshall said if it weren't for the county's agreement to permit the digging of ditches at the northern end of the 4,000-foot-long landfill, the city might have to spend as much as $2 million to lay 6,000 feet of new drain pipe to solve the Witmer Road problem.

Marshall said he believes he can do the ditch digging job for about $200,000.

Wheatfield's work will begin late this year or early in 2012. Marshall said the city project has to wait for the town portion to be completed, with action starting as soon as late next summer.