Niagara Gazette — The Buffalo-Niagara area stands to lose a major part of a federal agency that has played a significant role in Western New York for more than 150 years.
A plan in the works to move functions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Buffalo District to Louisville, Ky,, and Detroit would reduce the area operations to field office status, opponents contend. The mere mention of the consolidation has raised vociferous objections from Rep. Brian Higgins, (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) whose congressional districts include Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
At present, the Buffalo District employs about 280 persons at its main facility and six field offices that cover 38,000 square miles from Massena, N.Y., to Toledo, Ohio. Those district employees plan, design, build and operate water projects to reduce flooding, maintain navigation, protect the shoreline and support water quality efforts.
Higgins and Collins, in a bipartisan news release earlier this week, noted that the area corps of engineers is currently involved with other entities in overseeing a number of projects in the two lawmakers’ congressional districts that the include Erie and Niagara counties. Among those projects: the $359 million remediation of the former Linde site in Tonawanda; a $1.8 million seawall protection project in Hamburg; a $44 million Buffalo River restoration project; a $10 million remedial action program at Guterl Steel in Lockport.
In their news release, the congressmen questioned whether the proposed move would save million of dollars without cutting service or the workforce. They also point to the Louisville District as having a history of poor cost management on projects.
Higgins and Collins add: “It is puzzling that the Division of the Army Corps is attempting to improve contracting functions by shifting them all to the Louisville District, which has been responsible for that largest single civil works cost overrun in the history of the Army Corps.”