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Niagara County reclaiming lakeshore


OLCOTT -- Niagara County public works officials are working to reclaim land lost to a swollen Lake Ontario, with heavy earth-moving equipment digging into the lake bed and restoring beach lost beneath the waves.

With a combination of county heavy equipment and a pair of long-reach excavators with 60- and 40-foot arms, both contracted by the New York State Canal Corp., the county has been building submarine breakwaters that are weakening waves before they roll ashore and erode land. That arrangement, according to Commissioner of Public Works Garret Meal, came about through local contact with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office and Western New York's state legislative delegation, including Assemblyman Mike Norris, R-Lockport, and Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.

In the process, Niagara County has succeeded in rebuilding beaches that had been pounded away in recent decades.

The massive pieces of earth-moving equipment will be on display Tuesday for media, with public works officials on-hand to explain the county's process—which differs from the sandbag-reliant approaches being used elsewhere along Lake Ontario's south shore—and answer media questions.

"We want our residents to understand the scope of the undertaking here, and the steps Niagara County is taking, with notable assistance from the Canal Corp., to reclaim our land," said Legislator John Syracuse, R-Newfane, who chairs the County Legislature's Infrastructure & Facilities Committee. "Our philosophy has changed from a purely defensive effort to an offensive one. We're fighting back, we're making every effort to take back our shoreline."

The following three photos depict the gradual results of flood abatement efforts since May 10 as provided by Niagara County:

May 10.

May 18.

May 26.

June 2.

June 6.