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West Seneca Town Board Special Meeting - Feb. 3

Join West Seneca Reporter T.J. Pignataro who will be live at the Burchfield Nature and Art Center, 2001 Union Road, at 11 a.m. Friday for the Special Meeting of the West Seneca Town Board.

Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan and Councilman Eugene P. Hart are expected to be present to meet with town department heads as well as members of the Buffalo Niagara Realtors Association about the controversial - and currently suspended - new ordinance requiring the replacement of sewer lateral pipes upon property sales in West Seneca.

West Seneca Developmental Center - Feb. 1

West Seneca Reporter T.J. Pignataro will be reporting live from the West Seneca Senior Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday where the second of four sessions will be held about the future use of more than 200 acres of property on the site of the former West Seneca Developmental Center.

Richard Henry, West Seneca's town engineer, and John Gullo, the town's code enforcement officer, will discuss the current land use and zoning there and will present a detailed analysis of the property.

Video: Hydrofracking demonstrators call for Cuomo, DEC to act

DOWNTOWN BUFFALO -- About two dozen demonstrators this afternoon called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to keep toxic wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations from being accepted at municipal water treatment plants.

Standing outside the state Department of Environmental Conservation offices at Michigan Avenue and Seneca Street, the picketers also called on the agency to disclose which area treatment plants take such wastewater.

The wastewater, which could contain pollutants including radioactive materials and toxic chemicals, comes from gas-drilling sites utilizing a process known as hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking, said Rita Yelda, organizer for Frack Action Buffalo.

Demonstrators want Cuomo to issue an executive order declaring the waste "hazardous," which would prevent the treatment of hydrofracking wastewater at municipal plants, Yelda said.

"As we've seen from the New York Times article that was out recently, this is a big problem in Pennsylvania and now it's starting to happen here in New York state, as well," she said.

Last month, the Buffalo Sewer Authority revoked discharge permits for a hauler for U.S. Energy Development Corp. of Getzville, whose operations include drilling for natural gas, after concerns were raised about whether the city facility took in such wastewater.

Here's some information from the DEC about hydrofracking.

The Buffalo Common Council voted to ban hydrofracking last month.

When asked about Frack Action Buffalo's request, agency spokesman Michael Bopp said in an e-mail:

"Because we are in the midst of the environmental review of the hydraulic fracturing process in relation to Marcellus Shale gas drilling we cannot comment on specific issues (for example: wastewater) until the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) is finalized."

The governor's press office did not immediately reply to an e-mailed inquiry on the subject.

--Aaron Besecker

Polluted site on Buffalo River topic of public meeting Tuesday

A cleanup proposal for a portion of a contaminated site on the Buffalo River will be discussed at a public meeting Tuesday night in South Buffalo.

A section of the Exxon Mobil Buffalo Terminal site -- at 625 Elk St. and located inside the planned "Elk Street Corridor" -- is contaminated by a variety of materials, including degraded gasoline, diesel, volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and metals, according to state environmental regulators.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Dudley Branch Library, 2010 South Park Ave.

Here's the state's notice of the meeting, and here's a report on the site published in August.

--Aaron Besecker

Superfund site in Niagara County subject of public meeting Saturday

A public meeting on a study of a hazardous waste site in the Town of Porter will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Lewiston Senior Center, 4361 Lower River Road.

The study is of a site known as Air Force Plant 68, a portion of the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works -- a federal weapons production and storage site that became active during World War II.

The site is a Superfund site, or an inactive hazardous waste site, according to state regulators. It is owned by CWM Chemical Services and the federal government, and considered "a significant threat to public health and the environment" by the state.

The study is being done by Environmental Remediation Financial Services, and funded by a $50,000 grant through the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Technical Assistance Grant program.

The purpose of the study is to assess the adequacy of historical reports on the site, as well as to review the current investigations of the property, according to the DEC.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper was named the grant administrator for a the grant application submitted by Residents for Responsible Government, the Restoration Advisory Board for the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, Niagara Health-Science Report and Residents of Lewiston-Porter for the Environment (R.O.L.E.), according to a DEC spokeswoman.

The meeting is the first of two on this study. The second meeting date was not immediately available.

--Aaron Besecker

New Grand Island park, Lockport nature preserve among projects seeking Greenway endorsement

Town of Lockport parkland N
The late William F. Lytle donated land off North Canal Road to the Town of Lockport that will be used as a nature preserve. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News file photo)

Plans for a new park and a new nature preserve are among four new proposals vying for the endorsement of the Niagara River Greenway Commission.

The four proposals, up for a vote in November, are in Grand Island, the Town of Lockport, the City of Niagara Falls, as well as the upper Niagara River.

12:13 p.m.: Officials in Niagara Falls have proposed about $830,000 in improvements to a comfort station and lounge attached to the ice pavilion in the city's Hyde Park.

The project calls for brick work, roof, door and window replacement, as well as upgrades to banquet, restroom and shower facilities in the 7,000-square-foot building.

City officials, who said in their application they plan to request $200,000 in Greenway funds, have applied for a $400,000 grant for the project from the state parks office.

Here's a story from earlier this year about plans to upgrade the ice pavilion itself.

Fish habitat study

The Research Foundation of the State University of New York has proposed a three-year study of fish habitat in the Buffalo harbor area and the upper Niagara River.

The project, which has a cost of $735,413, includes nearly $250,000 in financial support from SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, according to the application.

Sponsors will apply for funding from the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee.

A fifth proposal in the latest round of review, submitted by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, is a revision of a previous proposal submitted in January. The revised plan calls for the development of a regional habitat restoration strategy, and includes an expanded scope due to the receipt of a grant from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Click here to view the latest proposal.

11:25 a.m.: The plan submitted by the Town of Grand Island call for a new 230-acre park, dubbed Scenic Woods-Bicentennial Park. The design includes more than five miles of recreational and nature trails.

The town bought 206 acres of a 270-acre parcel owned by Scenic Woods Development in 1999 for $250,000, according to Buffalo News archives. The land is located on the eastern part of the island, south of Ransom Road near East River Road.

Town officials, in their submission to the commission, say the total budget for the first two phases of the project is $902,000. The Town Board expects to finish a study of wetlands on the parcel in October, with design work believed to be starting next summer.

Officials estimate the first five years of operations and maintenance cost at the park to be $20,000.

Click here to read the town's full proposal before the commission. To read a master plan for the park, authored by Environmental Design & Research, click here.

Lockport plans nature preserve

The Town of Lockport is moving forward with plans for a nature preserve just north of the Erie Canal.

Most of the land was donated by a retired lumber yard owner who had initially planned to raise beef cattle there. Here's a story on the donation I did in May 2009.

Mr. William F. Lytle passed away a little more than a week after I interviewed him.

The project, to be known as Lytle Nature Preserve, will be connected by an asphalt trail to the state's Canalway Trail, according to the town's application to the commission.

The new nature preserve will have a total cost of $174,435, the town said. Town officials are plannig to cover about $80,000 of the costs in their 2011 budget, and plan to request nearly $95,000 from Greenway sources.

News Niagara Reporter Thomas J. Prohaska had an update on the project from the town's perspective in this June piece. Here's another story about the park, written in early June.

In terms of process, the Greenway commission has no funding power; that control is maintained by several standing committees and handled through a separate application process.

Those standing committees are allocated a total of $9 million per year.

The commission was created to develop a plan for a continuous, linear system of parks, trails and green spaces along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown.

Its 2007 plan -- which called for the creation of a "world-class corridor" -- came with a total funding allocation through 2057 of $450 million. The commission has reviewed more than 100 proposals since publishing its plan.

Check back for more about the other three two new proposals, as well as a revision of a previous proposal, submitted this round.

--Aaron Besecker

Live blog: News conference on arrest in City Grill shooting

DOWNTOWN BUFFALO -- An early evening news conference at Buffalo Police headquarters is about to get under way. Officials are expected to address the arrest today of a suspect in the City Grill shooting earlier this month. Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown is out of town but is expected to lead off the news conference by phone.

Stay tuned to this live blog for an account of the officials' statements to the media.

7:42 p.m.: A press release just issued by the mayor's office confirms that 23-year-old Riccardo McCray of East Ferry Street has been charged with four counts of second degree murder for his alleged role in the shooting, which killed four and injured four others.

7:45 p.m.: Brown begins the news conference on the phone by applauding the Buffalo police and other authorities for its "relentless pressure" to bring the alleged shooter to justice.

7:46 p.m.: Buffalo police commissioner Daniel Derenda says "we believe we have a very solid case." He asked that the media refrain from publishing pictures of the suspect.

7:48 p.m.: A representative of the FBI says the arrest was due to cooperation among law enforcement at the local, state and national level.

7:51 p.m.: District Attorney Frank Sedita congratulated law enforcement for its hard work and arrest. Derenda is saying he can't comment on McCray's background or other aspects of the investigation.

7:53 p.m.: Derenda says McCray is the only suspect. Police think he was the shooter. "I am confident that we have the right person," he said.

7:56 p.m.: Intense pressure by police on finding McCray was the reason he turned himself in, Derenda said.

7:57 p.m.: McCray is in the Erie County Holding Center and has an attorney, according to Derenda.

8 p.m.: The news conference has just ended with Derenda saying, "We're just glad he surrendered." He and Brown throughout the conference urged witnesses to come forward with information. Check back soon for full audio of the 15 minute meeting with reporters.

Listen to the full news conference:

Hear from some of the key figures involved in the surrender on Aug. 25 of McCray:

--Joseph Popiolkowski

Nuclear talk tonight at Niagara University

A researcher and professor who studies radioactive contamination will speak at Niagara University tonight.

Nathalie A. Wall, assistant professor at Washington State University, will present "The Processing of High Activity Radioactive Materials" in a session sponsored by the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board.

Wall worked at the French Atomic Energy Commission, and has held post-doctoral appointments at Florida State University and Sandia National Laboratories, according the a press release from the LOOW advisory board.

The advisory board is a volunteer panel of area residents with technical expertise applicable to radiological and chemical contamination, like that found on the former ordnance works site in Lewiston and Porter, as well as the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston.

The session, which is supported by the University at Buffalo Larkin Chair of Chemistry, NU and the Lewiston-Porter Central School District, will be held from 7 to 9:30 p.m. in 127 Dunleavy Hall.

The advisory board held another public session in June featuring the former head of an advisory panel for an Ohio nuclear site. Read that story here.

--Aaron Besecker

N-site regulators announce plans for facilitator

Federal regulators responsible for the cleanup of a World War II-era weapons production and storage site in Niagara County have made a move aimed at helping a strained relationship with the community.

Initial indications are that it won't actually change a lot.

The commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Buffalo District announced today the agency plans to bring in a technical facilitator, with discussions about executing the plan set for later this year.

Members of an advisory panel shunned by the agency have said they believe a facilitator is needed to help resolve disputes between the two sides over the environmental investigation at the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works and Niagara Falls Storage Site, located in the towns of Lewiston and Porter.

But the head of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board believes the message from corps' officials is more of the same.

Joseph A. Gardella, advisory board chairman, said there's a lack of details in today's announcement, and advisory board members "don't have to wait until September" to discuss them. The panel's leadership is ready to talk now, Gardella said.

"The only good thing I see is the admission that they're going to fund the facilitator," he said.

Gardella, a University at Buffalo chemistry professor, also said he wants details in writing, adding he wants to know what the corps' commitment will be.

The advisory panel was stripped of its official status by the corps. The agency had been seeking to form a new advisory panel, a move it said was needed in order to meet Department of Defense guidelines.  Gardella  

But such an entity, as defined in regulations, "would not meet the needs of the community and local stakeholders," the agency said today.

Area governments have stood behind the current version of the advisory board, telling regulators they want the board to be recognized and dealt with as the community's representatives.

Snead  “It is very clear that highly interested members of the community and stakeholders seek to contribute their expertise on technical issues in greater detail, especially regarding the [Interim Waste Containment Structure],” Lt. Col. Daniel B. Snead said in a written statement today. “Because of this, we have reached out to the US Environmental Protection Agency to gain their lessons learned with technical facilitators at other environmental cleanup sites.

Snead (pictured at left) continued, "I have confidence that a facilitator will be beneficial for all parties involved in the cleanup of these sites. We are dedicating our next workshop to discussing the details of community expectations and options available for us to establish facilitated technical discussions as part of our processes for these sites.”

Corps officials are conducting an investigation of radiological and chemical contamination at the former ordnance works site. The site includes the Niagara Falls Storage Site, a 191-acre parcel with a 10-acre waste cell, known as the Interim Waste Containment Structure, which is used to store Manhattan Project waste.

Public, quarterly workshops have been held by corps representatives as part of their community outreach program. The advisory board used to have monthly meetings with the corps' technical experts working on the cleanup.

For the advisory board, its members are growing frustrated, and "need a way forward," Gardella said.

"Their legal interpretation, which we view as incorrect and illegal, is that there is no RAB," he said. "That's just a lie, but that's their position."

Here are some past stories on the issue:

Last September, the advisory panel's concern over their involvement was illustrated with members' questions over how the agency delivers information to the public.

Last month, the local advisory board brought in the former head of an advisory group that dealt with a radiological waste site in Fernald, Ohio, with waste similar to what's stored here.

For more information about the cleanup from the agency's perspective, visit the corps' website for their investigation.

--Aaron Besecker

About a bear: Tips for what to do when you see one

Timothy Spierto, senior wildlife biologist with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, looks for signs of black bear beneath a fallen tree in Springville in this file photo. Springville has been the site of frequent bear visits as the population in the region grows.  (Derek Gee / Buffalo News) 

In addition to Saturday's sighting of a bear in the Newfane area of Niagara County, bears also have recently been spotted in Alden, Boston, Eden, Elma, Springville, Wales and West Seneca, according to state environmental regulators.

We're in the height of black bear breeding season, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Here's a recent report from Staff Reporter Dan Herbeck warning of the possibility of increase human encounters with bears in Western New York. Herbeck's report includes a list of tips of how to prevent or minimize a negative bear encounter. See more tips at the bottom of this post.

There are between 1,800 and 2,500 bears in the state's southern bear range, which includes the Catskills and parts of western and central New York. Allegany State Park is one of the four best places in the state to see black bears, the DEC says.

The bear population there has been growing and expanding in range over the past decade, according to state officials.

Here's a video on black bears from the DEC's website.

This is a bear safety video from the National Park Service about grizzly bears near Yellowstone National Park:

Here are the DEC's tips for avoiding problems with bears:

• Never feed bears. 

• If you believe that bears are being fed, intentionally or unintentionally, immediately report it to DEC. 

• Stop feeding birds as soon as the snow melts. Birds do not need supplemental food in the summer, when natural foods are most abundant. Clean up all seed fragments and shells left over from winter feeding, as the smell will attract bears. 

• Dispose of garbage as frequently as possible. Store it in clean, secure containers (toplatched, tied or chained). Sprinkle ammonia inside the garbage bag before closing. Tie off garbage bags before placing them in containers. • Keep garbage in cans inside buildings whenever possible. 

• If garbage is picked up at the curb, put the garbage out just before the scheduled pickup or place it in a roadside bear-resistant container. Do not put garbage out the night before curbside pick-up. Clean garbage cans frequently with ammonia.

• Do not add meat scraps, bones or melon rinds to your compost pile. 

• Do not burn garbage, especially meat scraps and grease. 

• Clean barbecue grills before night fall and, after they cool down, store them inside; 

• Feed pets indoors and store pet food indoors. If pets must be fed outdoors, take in all uneaten food and dishes before dark.

To reach the DEC Wildlife Office, call (716) 851-7010 in Buffalo or (716) 372-0645 in Allegany.

--Aaron Besecker

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