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Waves goodbye: Agreement coming on Athol Springs flood work

It's been 20 years in the making, but construction is expected to start within a year on the $6 million project to prevent waves from Lake Erie from crashing over Route 5 in Athol Springs.

New York State and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have signed an agreement on the project, according to Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and the Corps.

Schumer said it's time to get moving on the project, which has been discussed for years. He stood at the wall in July 2017 to call for the federal government to expedite funding for the project.

"Let’s get shovels in the ground ASAP, because Western New York has waited long enough,” Schumer said Wednesday in a news release.

"We may be able to initiate some construction this fall, but definitely by the spring," said David Romano, deputy district engineer for the Corps.

Schumer secured 100 percent federal funding for the $6 million project last fall, when usually the state would have to contribute 35% of the cost.

It's not the summer waves that cause the problem, it's the late fall, winter and early spring storms with high winds that sweep across the lake when it is not covered with ice. Waves and debris crash into the shore and land on the road. If it's cold, the water freezes on the road, causing the closure of that section of Route 5, rerouting the 40,000 motorists a day who travel on it.

The Corps of Engineers has finished the design of a 1,325-foot stone revetment, with boulders up to 3 feet in diameter designed to absorb the energy from Lake Erie’s waves during storms. There will be two to six million tons of armor stone installed, Romano said.

It would start about 40 feet into the lake. Designs call for a double-layer of the boulders to be placed atop smaller stones ranging from about 6 inches to a foot in diameter.

There also will be a 15-foot-wide "splash apron," to prevent waves from Lake Erie hitting the break wall and splashing up on the road near Hoak's Lakeshore Restaurant and in front of St. Francis High School in Hamburg.

"We appreciate the continued support of all our elected officials, and our team is pushing forward to award and deliver this project that will protect the deteriorating seawall along Route 5 from Lake Erie during storm and wave action events," said Lt. Col. Jason Toth, Buffalo District commander for the Corps of Engineers.

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