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Great Lakes Article:

Restoring Niagara's Fish Habitat

News Niagara Bureau

NEWFANE - Work will begin in July on the first step in the restoration of the fish habitat in Eighteenmile Creek.

Town Supervisor Eric P. Krueger said town Highway Department crews will start work on the construction of a staircase from the parking lot at Fisherman's Park in Burt to the creek bank near the Burt Dam.

Meanwhile, Niagara County environmental planner Edmund P. Sullivan said the state Department of Environmental Conservation has committed to working on the habitat restoration itself.

Sullivan said the DEC sent an official named Pat Cherry to a meeting set up June 11 by County Legislator James W. Ward, R-Newfane.

"He has done this stuff repeatedly," Sullivan said of Cherry. "He has a lot of expertise. Getting him is very important to the project."

Also assisting with planning for the habitat work are Greg Tessman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mark Seidor of the county Soil and Water Conservation District, according to Sullivan.

"This whole thing is a partnership," said Ward. "We tried to start this process three or four years ago. We're proud of the bipartisan support for this watershed which has a big effect on the eastern part of the county."

The creek runs north from Lockport into Lake Ontario. Its watershed has been named by the International Joint Commission as one of its areas of concern in the Great Lakes.

Ward said it's up to the DEC how the underwater diverters of the creek current are to be designed to enhance spawning grounds for trout and salmon, and whether fish ladders should be installed at the Burt Dam.

The cost of the plan is estimated at $894,500, with the county fronting $452,500 for eventual reimbursement by the state and federal governments. The county kicked in $75,000 from its tobacco bond revenue.

County Legislature Chairman Bradley E. Erck said, "We leveraged about seven to one on this thing."

The county also obtained state and federal grants; contributions from outside groups such as Trout Unlimited and the Seaway Trail Association, and agencies ranging from the Soil and Water Conservation District to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and help from the Town of Newfane.

Krueger said the staircase is part of a $50,000 commitment of cash and services by the town.

"They're probably not going to do any remediation until the first of the year," Krueger said. "They've got some engineering to do."

The work area will extend one mile north of the Burt Dam.

Ward said that in the prime fishing season, "There's anywhere from 500 to 800 people a day who fish that mile below the dam. That fishery has such a big economic impact."

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