Thursday, February 24, 2022

Genesee Leaders Ask Congressman for any Funding he Can Get:
County turning to Jacobs for help in funding clean, expanded water projects

Genesee County leaders say water is the top issue the county faces and they’re asking Congressman Chris Jacobs to do what he can to secure funding for the water infrastructure projects ahead. Jacobs met with legislators in Batavia Wednesday before their regular meeting. “Basically, over the next decade, Genesee County water is the No. 1 issue. We need the help, we need the assistance so we’re not putting this cost squarely on the water users and the taxpayers of Genesee County,” County Manager Matt Landers said during the Committee of the Whole meeting with the congressman.

Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said the of the four phases that are part of the countywide water project, the Phase 1 cost $20 million, Phase 2 was $23 million, Phase 3, which is currently being designed, is pegged at about $85 million and Phase four, which is years down the road, is in the $50 million to $60 million range. It's a necessity for agriculture. Cows drink approximately eight times what a human drinks.

Phase 3, the highway superintendent said, will eliminate the need for the city water plant and also would produce an additional six million gallons of water.

“Who knows what the costs are going to be this July, let alone July 2032?” Hens said.

Hens said the county is trying to break Phase 3 into smaller pieces. He said the county thinks it will benefit from an infusion of money into the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund through the infrastructure bill that was passed last fall. He said the county will try to take advantage of all the water project funding it can at the state level.

“We would be more than thankful for any help that your office could provide,” he told Jacobs. “As Matt indicated, we do have lobbyists on the federal level ... They’ve been helpful in pointing us to certain pots of money, but earmarks or any community fund-type programs that your office can have access to would be much appreciated.”

Legislature Chairwoman Rochelle Stein said the county has an environmentally threatened public water source right now, right in Tonawanda Creek.

“If there is an environmental bill that looks to be coming out that you might be able to include in funding for public water supplies that are threatened due to a groundwater source, we would really like to have your support for that,” she told Jacobs. “Also, with funding for a change of water source, going from a groundwater to a lake water, of course, the chemistry’s a bit different there.”

Stein talked about the “social justice” for residents of the city of Batavia and throughout the county.

“We have loads of moderate-income folks who really can’t afford to have the cost of having lead pipes changed out, that would also be of a great interest to us during this process,” she said.

Hens said the 40-year forecast for water throughout the county was 10 million gallons. He said the county is using about 10 million gallons now.

“Phase 3 and Phase 4, if we were to get through those iterations, we would have a 40-year supply to about 21.5 million gallons,” Hens said. “We would have effectively doubled the original forecast. The growth of the water system has far exceeded our expectations, not only for residential demand, but a few years back, agriculture realized that they saw tremendous benefits in milk production in the dairy farms..." Cows drink [a lot of water] in a day.”

“Phase 3 and Phase 4, if we were to get through those iterations, we would have a 40-year supply to about 21.5 million gallons,” Hens said. “We would have effectively doubled the original forecast. The growth of the water system has far exceeded our expectations, not only for residential demand, but a few years back, agriculture realized that they saw tremendous benefits in milk production in the dairy farms. Cows drink probably eight times what the average human consumes in a day.”

“Phase 3 and Phase 4, if we were to get through those iterations, we would have a 40-year supply to about 21.5 million gallons,” Hens said. “We would have effectively doubled the original forecast. The growth of the water system has far exceeded our expectations, not only for residential demand, but a few years back, agriculture realized that they saw tremendous benefits in milk production in the dairy farms. Cows drink probably eight times what the average human consumes in a day.”

Hens said one of the benefits the county has seen from the water project so far is economic growth.

“One our big components that we pulled in has been our food processing industry. We’ve got HP Hood, we’ve seen O-AT-KA expand, we’ve got yogurt companies, we’ve got cheese companies, HP Hood right now by themselves uses over a million gallons a day. They have plans to expand.”

Hens said there are still areas that don’t have water. Phase 2 of the water project is being done to increase the water supply in the county.

“Parallel to that, there are district expansions going on in Byron, Bergen and Bethany that will basically consume all the new water that we bring to the county,” Hens said. “Phase 3, not only does it bring more water to everybody in the county, but it also replaces a 115-, 130-year-old water plant in the city of Batavia that is limited in what it can produce and is also threatened from not only low groundwater situation ... but also from ... conditions in the Tonawanda Creek that keep us from producing high-quality water all-year round.”

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