The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed an initial damage assessment and is determining options for repairing the West Barrier Bar Pier in Fair Haven.
Andrew Kornacki, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers' Buffalo district, said Friday that the initial assessment consisted of a review of photos provided to the agency. The photos helped the agency "better understand the extent of the damages sustained," according to a news release.
A team from the Army Corps of Engineers will conduct an onsite assessment next week. Fair Haven Mayor Jim Basile said in a phone interview that the visit is scheduled for Tuesday and a project manager has been assigned to lead the process of repairing the pier.
High water levels and strong winds have damaged the pier. Local officials are concerned that further damage to the pier will lead to severe flooding and could impact the local economy, especially during the busy tourism season.
Basile said the damage includes some sheet piling that has separated from the pier structure. Erosion lower on the structure has caused a portion of the concrete deck to collapse into the pier. The concrete chunks appear confined to the damaged section, he said. He advised boaters and pedestrians who want to get a closer look at the damage to stay back due to the unsafe conditions and the possibility that more of the pier could collapse.
The damage can be repaired, Basile said, but he hopes the Army Corps of Engineers will inspect the east and west piers to determine if there is preventive maintenance that can be done "so we're not talking about this again."
The Army Corps of Engineers explained that design work has commenced to determine options for repairing the pier. The repair options will be finalized this fall, but it's unknown when the repairs will begin.
It will be challenging for the Fair Haven pier to secure funding for repairs. The Army Corps of Engineers noted that there are limited funds available and the pier will be competing against other projects for support.
The funding is needed before repairs can proceed.
If the repairs can't be made immediately, Basile said the channel would remain open. Markers would be placed to notify boaters that they should avoid the affected area.
"This village is resilient," Basile said. "We're open for business. The channel is wide ... There's no reason why we still can't navigate this channel in and out from the bay."
The condition of the pier received more attention last week when Cayuga County's federal representatives — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Rep. John Katko — co-wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging the agency to fund the Fair Haven pier repairs.
Basile said he contacted the Army Corps of Engineers in February to alert the agency and provide information, including photos of the damage.
"We appreciate the continued support of the local elected officials, channel users and congressional members as we develop a plan of action to address the repair needs," said Maj. Patrick Billmann, deputy commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' Buffalo district.
Fair Haven was one of the Lake Ontario shoreline communities affected by flooding in 2017. The flooding caused extensive damage and led to President Donald Trump issuing a major disaster declaration.
Rising lake levels have federal, state and local officials concerned that flooding could occur again along the Lake Ontario shoreline. The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board reported Friday that the lake level is 245.9 feet, 10.6 inches above its average for this time of year.
With high water levels, the board has increased outflows at the Moses-Saunders Dam on the St. Lawrence River.
Elected officials aren't alone in their concerns about the Fair Haven pier. Billmann said members of the community have contacted the Army Corps of Engineers. The feedback will help the agency determine a solution.
"We are committed to communicating the status of the project as soon as we have more information," he said.