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Burley says Village of Massena sewer project passes SEQR

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MASSENA - The Massena Village Board took another step forward this week as its moves forward with a planned $3 million sewer improvement project.

Engineer Timothy A. Burley walked the board through his State Environmental Qaulity Review Act findings on the project at this week’s village board meeting.

The $3.2 million loan for the project would be paid back with funding received from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) over a 20- or 30-year period.

“With the funding program that you put an application into, one of the things that they require is that you undertake a State Environmental Quality Review Act for compliance with your project. The two milestones of the project are an environmental review and, more importantly, a containing piece of that is the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO),” he said.

“So basically, what they want to do before the state releases funding to any capital project, they want to make sure that all their ducks are in a row and there’s not going to be any environmental problems with the capital project,” Mr. Burley said.

“So a month ago we did the lead agency resolution, which basically said that the project is of local impact and as a municipality, you choose to have jurisdiction over the environmental review. So we took that resolution and we had prepared the part one form with a myriad of questions, and we sent them to the DEC and the different interested agencies for an opportunity to comment,” he added.

Mr. Burley said he received letters back from both the DEC and SHPO. “So, basically within this New York state DEC letter, there was a statement that they concur with your desire to act as lead agency. In that capacity, what happens is that an environmental assessment form has three parts. Part one is what I prepared on your behalf, answering questions about what I think the potential impacts are. Part two is a questionnaire. ... At the end there’s a part three in the form at which point you will make a determination (if) there’s no impact, a major impact, and there’s three options,” he said.

Mr. Burley, who works with C2AE, Canton, said the letter indicated that SHPO determined there was no impact from the project. “In other words, you’re not going to disturb any cultural resources that may be available in the area.”

Department of Public Works Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad has said that one of the things the sewer project would address is the village’s sewer line along state Route 37. According to Mr. Fayad, the project has been on the CWSRF waiting list for six years without coming close to qualifying for funding.

The project also includes the replacement of manholes, construction of a pumping station, aeration improvements and a bio-solids recycling system.

If the project ended up costing more than the permitted $3.2 million, the village would have several options. They could redo the bond resolution, only do a portion of the project or pay for the excess amount with local funds.

Mr. Burley said that the recently finished SEQR focused primarily on the sewer line work and aeration improvements.

“The only thing that (DEC) said in their letter was that the Grasse River was a significant national resource. If you go below the water line on the Grasse River, you would have a potential impact. That’s what they say in the letter. We’re not going to go below the high water mark in the Grasse River in the project as planned,” Mr. Burley said.

“They said down near Route 37 and Orvis (Street) there’s a wetland back in that vicinity. As long as you’re basically just working in the existing footprint of what was disturbed in the original sewer system, you’re not relocating a line further down the bank towards the wetland - their letter says they’ll consider it a no impact.”

Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld asked Mr. Burley how much the various mandates and permits required for the project’s completion would cost the village. The engineer noted that there will be no expenses on that front.

“How much building needs to be done along that corridor before they figure out there’s no artifacts there?” Mr. Ahlfeld asked.

“Sometimes it feels like welfare for archeologists. We’ve done probably in my history, probably close to $1 million worth of archeological work that really, in my opinion, found next to nothing for cultural resources,” Mr. Burley responded.

“You’re still going to do it. There’s nothing you can do about. I think I’ve done probably done 50 or 60 of these and maybe one or two actually turned out some reasonable artifacts that got catalogued and sent to the state for review. I think in the town of Massena they actually did find some archeological artifacts near the intersection of Route 37C, and they did catalogue some of it. I think it got sent to the local museum. I don’t know what we put on display but usually it’s chicken bones and things like that.”

After running through the list of 18 questions with board members, Mr. Burley noted that the project would not have significant environmental or geological impacts and passed a host of other potential obstacles. This led to the board’s approval of a resolution stating that the sewer project will not have a significant adverse impact.

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