BUFFALO, N.Y. — This story has been updated with additional information from Erie County which addresses concerns regarding pollution of Muddy Creek
Town of Evans Supervisor Mary Hosler says she expects that the beach at Lake Erie Beach Town Park will be open to swimmers this summer, but says it will take considerable effort and expense.
Hosler was quoted in the Sun newspapers as having told other town officials last week that she was uncertain if the beach could be opened this summer, due to weather events in recent months.
Piled up debris and the need to remove it every spring is nothing new for lake shore communities south of Buffalo.
However, there’s more than just the usual abundance of logs and branches causing concern at Lake Erie Beach Park in Evans.
After pounding winter storms, some with winds that pushed ice flows inland like glaciers, much of the beach has been left underwater.
Several longtime residents say they’ve never seen anything like it.
The result of these forces of nature actually spread sand, rocks, and debris over the outlet of nearby Muddy Creek, creating a dam-like effect that caused the creek to alter its course and flood the beach.
The creek usually discharges into the lake between two cement retaining walls.
Locals who frequent the beach say the storms caused the sand to actually “jump the wall,” much like a snowdrift would clog a road or sidewalk.
The flow of the creek was thereby diverted onto the beach area, leaving an area that by summer would be populated with swimmers, sunbathers and sandcastle makers currently under water.
Some who frequent the beach expressed additional concern due to the presence of a a sewer pumping station just upstream from where the creek empties into Lake Erie.
It's easy to understand how they may be concerned, as the mouth of a pipe running beneath the pump station juts out over the creek.
However, Erie County sewer officials claim there is nothing for them to fear.
Nothing to Fear
In an e-mail, an Erie County spokesperson noted that Erie County Sewer District No. 2 Point Breeze Pumping Station does not discharge into Muddy Creek or Lake Erie.
In addition, according to Peter Anderson, there are no sanitary sewer overflows at that location.
“That facility collects sewage from the area and pumps it several miles north to an interceptor sewer upstream of the Big Sister Creek Water Resource Recovery Facility. That pumping station actually protects water quality in Muddy Creek and Lake Erie Beach,” Anderson wrote.
According to the state DEC, the sanitary effluent is then discharged into Big Sister Creek instead.
The belief by some local residents that the pumping station near Muddy Creek somehow contributes to water pollution might be rooted in the fact that for many years, according to state records, there were “inflow and infiltration problems in Erie County Sewer District #2 which impacted local water quality.”
In 2009, under then Erie County Executive Chris Collins, the pumping station was significantly upgraded to address those problems.
However, septic tanks from older cottages that are not part of the public sewer system continue to leak into the creek.
According to Hosler, the town is permitted to dredge out the mouth of the creek to return its previous course, but that due to conservation laws regarding spawning fish, the work can't commence until June.
That would still allow the town, however, to complete the work in time for the prime swimming season.
The Cost of Waterfront Maintenance
At the same time, Hosler is still pursuing funds in order to repair the wall along the creek outlet which she says is broken and breached.
Hosler said the town incurs considerable expense to maintain its waterfront properties.
She said cleaning up the beach to open it for swimming costs several thousand dollars every year, in addition to several thousand more being spent to clean and maintain the beach at nearby Evans Town Park.
The town also has paid up to $60,000 annually for dredging at the Sturgeon Point Marina, which it also owns and operates, which can eat up nearly one-third of the revenues it brings in by renting boat slips there when every slip is rented.
"Our waterfront properties are a valuable community asset which are used and enjoyed not just by town residents," said Hosler. "But I don't think most people realize the costs that are associated with maintaining them."
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