Schumer Calls for Emergency Repairs to LaSalle Park Seawall

"This is crtitical, and it needs to be done right away."

Brendan Keany
October 21, 2019 - 12:22 pm

(WBEN Photo/Brendan Keany)

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BUFFALO (WBEN) - Senator Chuck Schumer was in Buffalo this morning to call on an expedited push for funding to repair the seawall that runs along LaSalle Park.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the repair of the seawall, and Schumer says bureaucratic tape is holding up the process of approving the $5 million it would take to fortify the 1,300 feet of infrastructure. He added that the money was put in the budget several years ago and there's no logical reason as to why this process hasn't began already.

"Right here, we not only have LaSalle Park, but we have the Francis G. Ward Pumping Station," said Schumer. "We all know that Lake Erie can get pretty rough, so this seawall must be strong and must be protected, but it's been ages since this seawall has been renovated, and it's starting to fall apart and deteriorate."

Below is the letter that Schumer's office sent to the USACE:

Dear Assistant Secretary James and Lt. General Semonite,

I write to request the swift approval of the seawall project on Buffalo’s waterfront at LaSalle Park near the Colonel Francis G. Ward Pumping Station. The utilization of approximately $5.93 million in emergency supplemental funding for this critical project will help safeguard Buffalo’s water infrastructure and help ensure the timely completion of modernizations planned for some of the City of Buffalo’s most beautiful public land. With your approval, this project will be able to commence without further delays, which jeopardize a vital portion of LaSalle Park’s water protection.

The City of Buffalo is in the middle of a renaissance, clawing its way into the 21st century from its long and proud industrial past. Buffalo is also home to a historic and vibrant park system that makes use of the city’s vast natural resources and beauty. LaSalle Park is the beneficiary of the largest ever philanthropic gift in Western New York’s history. My friend, Buffalo Bills founder Ralph Wilson, remained dedicated to the betterment of Western New York throughout his life. The Ralph C. Wilson foundation established in his memory has contributed $100 million to a complete reimagining of this park, which will be known thereafter as Ralph C. Wilson Centennial Park. This is to be a modern and vibrant public good, ensuring that generations to come will be able to enjoy the splendor of Buffalo’s waterfront. This park is also the home to the Colonel Ward Pumping Station, which was designed as a state-of-the art engineering marvel more than 100 years ago. This pump station continues to reliably supply water to the City of Buffalo and has been in continuous use since before the First World War. 

However, the seawall that protects these important public entities is in danger of failure. More than 1,300 ft. of this wall is in need of critical repairs, which have been identified by the Army Corps Buffalo District as meeting the criteria for emergency supplemental funding. In addition to potential delays this could cause to the revitalization project and the public’s ability to access their own parkland, the destruction of the seawall puts all of Western New York’s water infrastructure in jeopardy. In short, failure is not an option.  

With these facts in mind, I request that you immediately approve the emergency supplemental funding request and allow this project to begin as quickly as possible.

The senator explained that construction would take about a year to complete, and Mayor Byron Brown emphasized the immediate need for improvement.

"This is critical, and it needs to be done right away..." said Brown. "The deterioration of the seawall is now not affective in stopping powerful lake water from rushing in, and that lake water could have a negative impact on the Colonel Ward Pumping Station and the important work it does to help our water system deliver water to the residents of this community."

Schumer noted that this problem could hinder the ability of Buffalo's Waterfront to move forward.

"It's an issue that's actually putting the city and Buffalo's most essential water infrastructure and ambitious plans to transform this park into something really beautiful - both are in danger," said Schumer. "Both are in danger because there's a seawall there's a seawall that protects it all right here, and that seawall needs repair. If it were to collapse, all of the great work that the Ralph G. Wilson Foundation, the City of Buffalo and the State of New York were to do, wouldn't work."

Listen to the full press conference below:

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