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Congressman Higgins Announces $2.4 Million for Conewango Dam

Apr 7, 2009
Press Release

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) announced that the Conewango Watershed retention structure is set to benefit from $2.4 million in federal Recovery Act funding through the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Watershed Rehabilitation Program. 

“This significant federal investment in the Conewango watershed will produce long-term stabilization along the dams that will protect local homeowners, farms and residents across Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties,” said Congressman Higgins.   “Fifty million was allocated through the Recovery Act for this watershed program nationwide and $2.4 million of that is coming right here to Chautauqua County.”

Nine dams are located along the Conewango Watershed.  The Recovery Act funding will support improvements to Conewango 3 and Conewango 6, located in Chautauqua County.  In addition to the jobs created, these projects together are expected to increase the demand for construction supplies and equipment injecting $3.4 million into the local economy. 

Conewango Creek Watershed Site 3 rehab will protect 80 homes and several commercial properties in the Town of Ellington and the Village of Ellington from flooding.  The project will provide an average annual flood damage reduction benefit of $173,000.  Rehabilitation work on Site three will create approximately 5 design jobs and 20 construction jobs. 

Conewango Watershed Site 6 protects 150 residents and over 10 private, public and industrial establishments in the Town and Village of Cherry Creek from flooding.  Average annual flood damage protection for this project is estimated at $160,000.  This project is also expected to create 5 design and 20 construction jobs.

During the summer of 2005 a thorough inspection was performed on the Conewango Watershed sites.  As a result of the assessment several rehabilitation needs have been identified to meet applicable State and Natural Resource Conservation Service safety and performance standards and to extend the useful life of the structures another 100 years. 

The Conewanga Watershed retention structures were constructed between 1965 and 1982.  The earthen dams equipped with concrete risers provide flood control in the area.  Local landowners benefit from reduced flooding occurrences and property damage.  The county highway departments and general public in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties also benefit from a decrease in flooding that could potentially damage local road and bridges in the area.    Watershed dams also provide secondary recreation benefits such as boating, fishing, hiking and bird watching. 

The federal Recovery Act included $50 million nationwide for watershed rehabilitation.  Many dams built under USDA authorities are nearing the end of their 50-year design life, and rehabilitation is needed to address critical public health and safety issues in these communities. Funding of projects is based on a priority ranking system that considers the condition of the dam and number of people at risk if the dam should fail. The federal government assumes 65% of the funding for the project with state and local agencies providing a 35% match.