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Tonawanda Creek

Batavia engineer says Tonawanda Creek will crest within the hour at 10.4 feet

By Billie Owens


This photo of the nearly cresting Tonawanda Creek was taken about 20 minutes ago on Law Street by Howard from his cell phone.

The creek has been rising all day. The National Weather Service predicted earlier today that the Tonawanda would crest at 9.4 feet this afternnoon. Flood stage is considered to be 9 feet.

Tom Lichtenthal, assistant engineer for Town of Batavia, was also out at the Law Street bridge and reported that the water level now is 9.85 feet and it is expected to crest within the hour at 10.4 feet. Afterward, the waters will start to recede.

He said no major flooding problems are expected. 

But he said engineers are concerned about a large tree trunk that is floating, but lodged in the creek. They are concerned that it could wedge free and float downstream to where the River Street Bridge project is underway.

A natural gas main under the bridge has been lowered by three feet to accommodate summer construction, when rains this heavy are not typical. There's some worry that large floating debris -- like a big tree trunk -- could strike and damage the gas line. So a crew from National Fuel is on scene now, working to raise the gas line to where it normally would be, says Lichtenthal.

Impacted areas of flooding also include Kibbe Park and Walnut Street. Below are photos taken a few minutes ago at Kibbe Park. 







Three more pictures added -- River Street Bridge area and behind the courthouse.

Tonawanda close to nine-foot level

By Howard B. Owens


At 9 a.m., the water level of the Tonawanda Creek, measured behind the courthouse, was 8.5 feet and rising, according to the National Weather Service.

Flood stage is 9 feet.

The creek is expected to crest at 9.4 feet this afternoon.

Impacted areas include Kibbe Park, Law Street and Walnut Street.  

Also, expect flooding in the rural areas of Alexander and the Alabama Swamps.

Pedestrians concerned about closure of River Street Bridge for rehab

By Zachary Lee

The River Street Bridge over the Tonawanda Creek, which is owned and maintained by Genesee County, received more than $2 million in federal aid to help develop a plan to rehabillitate the structure.

The total estimated cost to rehab the bridge is $2,155,000, divided between three seperate funds:

  • 80 percent funded by Federal Highway Administration
  • Estimated 15 percent funded by New York State Department of Transportation
  • Estimated 5 percent funded by local share (taxpayers)

At an information meeting at City Hall Wednesday night, County Highway Superintendent Timothy Hens said the project would take between four to six months and will begin next June. Construction will take place in eight-hour shifts beginning at 8 a.m.

The bridge was built in 1975. Senior project engineer Jonathan M. Walczak said one of its fault is that the joints were placed at the bottom of the beams and the saltwater and severe weather of Western New York winters took its toll on the bridge joints. He proposes raising the joints so that it's harder for salt and river water to reach them.

A River Street resident asked about raising the actual roadway of River Street and Walczak replied "It's so flat out here, the geometrics just won't let us raise the bridge." 

The engineer's team is already in contact with National Fuel talking about the eight-inch natural gas main; the gas main will be maintained.

River Street residents debated about how handicapped individuals who live at the Birchwood Village Apartments would get to work without bridge access, since several of them work at Tops Market in Batavia.

"I will try to be in touch with local employers to see if we can get an alternate way of transportation," Walczak replied.

Residents suggested installing a temporary sidewalk and Walczak seems open to such ideas.

He was also asked about the dimensions of the sidewalk, five-feet wide, and bridge railing, 45-inches high, and said both will be kept the same.

River Street resident Nann Zorn wasn't at the meeting but wrote to Highway Superintendent Hens espressing concern about the bridge's months-long closure.

"There are hundreds of pedestrains who use this bridge every day as a main route to their employment and to obtain provisions and necessities for their daily lives," Zorn wrote.

That sparked spirited debate on whether it was possible to keep a temporary path open over creek during bridge reconstruction. The proposed detour would be approximately 1.7 miles long and consist of using West Main Street, Oak Street and Pearl Street instead.

The soft light of midsummer



There's plenty to be said for rising early. In the above photo, rays of sunlight permeate our yard as the sun begins its ascent.


The calm of early morning provides a mirror image on a placid surface.


Mist rises from a stretch of Tonawanda Creek. Regardless the time of day, this is always a nice spot to take photos as little light penetrates the treetop canopy.


Gathering clouds have a filtering effect and cast a pale-orange glow on the horizon.


The full moon looms large immediately after rising...........


but not until the full moon climbs high in the night sky are we bathed in soft lunar light and moon shadows.

The Tonawanda Creek reaches minor flood stage

By Howard B. Owens


The Tonawanda Creek has reached a minor flood stage of nine feet high and is expected to crest this afternoon at 9.3 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Photo from about an hour ago at the spillway behind the County Courthouse.

Photos: Snowy Egret, Tonawanda Creek

By Howard B. Owens


Chris Hausfelder spotted this egret on the Tonawanda a few days ago and was able to snap a couple of pictures of this elusive bird.


Eagle Scout project nets 180 lbs of garbage hauled from the Tonawanda Creek

By Howard B. Owens


More than 20 volunteers hauled out 180 pounds of garbage from the Tonawanda Creek this morning under the supervision of Boy Scout Alex Hansen.

The cleanup was the culmination of Alex's Eagle Scout project, which he said took a year to plan and execute.

It required the cooperation of Genesee ARC (who hauled away the garbage for free) and Sloat Tire to pick up the tires that were collected, and Alex had to coordinate the volunteers through the Tonawanda Watershed Committee and Troop 6069.

"The creek over the years has become really polluted with trash," Alex said. "People just throw tires and water heaters and even air conditioners right over the bridges in town. All this stuff gets washed to places, such as Kiwanis Park, and so we have people people cleaning because there's trash everywhere."

The 16-year-old scout said volunteers dispersed to Kiwanis Park, Kibbe Park, behind the courthouse and behind Valu Plaza.

"We think this will make a positive difference for the community because people want to enjoy the creek again," Alex said. "We want to make it a better place for people and wildlife."






Photos: A no-fish fishing derby on the Tonawanda Creek in Batavia

By Howard B. Owens


The fish weren't biting on the Tonawanda Creek today, but that didn't stop a group of Batavia residents from having fun during an annual fishing derby organized by John Lawrence.

The water was high and swift, which made it hard to even get a nibble, but the anglers, young and older, stuck with it.

Above, Brian Mruczek with is son Lakoda.


Giana Mruczek.


Nick Grasso puts on a show like he's really hooked something big.


A sunny morning along Tonawanda Creek


The sun had barely cleared the horizon when I pulled out of the driveway Tuesday morning. And with the camera case on the seat beside me, I really wasn't sure where I was going. The last thing I expected on a rather chilly morning was a bald eagle perched in a dead tree overlooking Tonawanda Creek.

Nearly an hour earlier, while watching the news and having coffee, I mulled over where I would go. At first I contemplated going either to the swamps, Genesee County Park or dragging the canoe out back and paddling upstream on the Tonawanda. These have all been productive in the past but this morning, for some reason, I opted for something different. But still, I couldn't make up my mind on where to I just got in the truck and drove. There was also a catch....I didn't have great deal of time to kill as I had an appointment at 11 a.m.

The sun was making its way up the eastern horizon when I eased down a grassy bank of the Tonawanda where it flows along Stegman Road north of the Bushville bridge. Despite the bright sun on this morning, far less light penetrates shoreline canopy in this stretch. That would change farther downstream. The rock-studded shoreline is a good indication this is smallmouth territory.

Steam rising off the surface -- a good indication the water was considerably warmer than the chilly 45 degree air.   

Farther downstream is where I came across the bald eagle -- in surroundings more suitable for surveying its domain, scanning the creek and the surrounding area for a meal. Fish, muskrats, rabbits -- when you have a bill and talons that big and sharp, the menu is limitless.

Turning its head nearly 180 degrees enables him to watch his backside and prevent potential prey from slinking past.

Further upstream, blended in among fallen limbs, a trio of wood ducks are oblivious to the threat from above. 

Taking leave of their temporary haven, the woodies wisely head upstream -- toward the cover of the canopy.

Volunteers install storm drain markers to remind residents about water quality for the Tonawanda

By Howard B. Owens

Information and photos provided by Elizabeth Bentley-Huber.

Boy Scouts Tristan Korzelius, Jake Houseknecht and Ryan Missel installed storm drain markers in the City of Batavia on Saturday as part of an ongoing effort by the Tonawanda Creek Watershed Committee to remind people that what goes down storm drains has a direct impact on the quality of water in the Tonawanda.

A dozen volunteers installed 253 medallions over storm drain inlets throughout the city.

Tonawanda Creek committee members and local volunteers have also installed these markers in the Village of Attica, hamlets of Varysburg, North Java and Johnsonburg. Last year members installed medallions in the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.

If you are interested in joining this effort or have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Bentley-Huber at Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District at 585-343-2362 or at [email protected].

Kirk Peryea and Lucy Pietrzykowski

Kirk Peryea, Lucy Pietrzykowski, Greg Houseknecht, Jake Houseknecht, Tristan Korzelius, Ryan Missel, Robert Cassatt, Molly Stetz. Absent: James Tuttle, Les Winters, David Winters, Addison Winters. These volunteers installed 253 medallions over storm drains in the City of Batavia on July 27, 2013.

Man rescued from the Tonawanda Creek off Walnut Street

By Howard B. Owens

A person was rescued from the Tonawanda Creek at 9:30 a.m. in the area of 63 Walnut St., Batavia.

City Fire Department responded to the call and located a semiconscious man in the water who was being held by a bystander.

The victim was removed from the water by firefighters and transported to UMMC by Mercy EMS.

His name or condition has not yet been released.

Batavia resident using the Tonawanda to prepare for historic canoe trip from Albany to NYC

By Howard B. Owens

Rick Levins says the Tonawanda Creek is a spiritual place. He's been drawn to it most of his life, he said. For more than 30 years, he's lived on its bank in a home on Walnut Street.

This spring, he started paddling it every day, finding a few moments of peace, but also preparing for a historic canoe trip next month from Albany to New York City down the Hudson River.

The trip is known as the Two Row Wampum Renewal Epic Canoe Trip and is being organized by a group of Native Americans in the Syracuse area to commemorate the first treaty between Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) and Dutch traders in 1613.

"Basically, the treaty said, 'we're in our canoes, you're in your ships, we're going down the same river together, but we won't bother you, you don't bother us,'" Levins said. "That didn't always work quite so well, but the Iroquois and Haudenosaunee have honored that treaty. This is a 400-year renewal. It's the basically indigenous person saying we're losing the path here and we need to get back to some of these old ways."

Levins is half Native -- his mother was from the Six Nations in Canada -- and his cousin from Six Nations introduced him to the trip.

The journey starts July 27 and ends Aug. 9 on the United Nations Indigenous People's Day. 

Along the way, there will be seminars and lectures. The trip is intended to promote peace, friendship and environmental sustainability.

Levins has been paddling on the Tonawanda every day since the start of spring preparing for the trip. Every day, he says, he has the creek to himself. He sees geese, ducks, herons, beavers and deer and listens to the birds tweet and twitter.

"I've even seen deer swimming in the creek," Levins said. "I was going up the creek, coming around the bend, and I saw something in the water. At first, I thought it was a beaver. There's a lot of beaver in here. Well, the beaver started to get up out of the water and it turned into a deer. A nice young buck with velvet."

Because of the historic meaning of the Tonawanda to both Natives and white settlers, Levins said he's always felt a special connection to the waterway that was once an important transportation link.

"The creek holds a lot of meaning to me," Levins said. "There's so much history here."


The white stuff falling from the sky isn't sticking much

By Howard B. Owens

It's been snowing in Genesee County pretty much continually since last night, but as you can see from the banks of the Tonawanda along West Main Street, Batavia, that there hasn't been much accumulation.

What accumulation there has been is pretty much just slush.

The Weather Service says expect more of the same through tomorrow.

Photo: Swan on the Tonawanda

By Howard B. Owens

A reader alerted us Saturday that she had seen a swan on the Tonawanda Creek earlier behind Settler's. Sure enough, we found this big white bird hanging out with the geese.

Fuel storage tanks being removed, but no leakage into the Tonawanda suspected

By Howard B. Owens

Yesterday work crews started removing the fuel pumps and fuel tanks from the Wilson Farms location at 355 W. Main St., Batavia.

While people have told us the tanks needed to be removed because they were leaking fuel into the Tonawanda Creek, information obtained from the DEC indicates that's just not the case.

While there is some localized soil contamination, which the DEC is supervising for remedial clean up, the leak is contained to the property.

The property owner is listed as Sugar Creek Stores. Both Wilson Farms and Sugar Creek were sold to 7-Eleven early last year.

Earlier this year, 7-Eleven announced it was selling two Wilson Farms stores in Batavia. Industry reports at the time indicated 7-Eleven was not interested in locations that sell gas, but 7-Eleven recently rebranded the former Wilson Farms location in Oakfield.

While a source tells us the property owner plans to discontinue gas sales at the West Main Street location in the city, we've not yet been able to confirm that with a company representative.

The property is .35 acres and stretches from the shared property line with Settler's west toward Lambert's Design Jewelers, with a length of green space in between the buildings.

Fuel tank removal is expected to take another week or two.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven said the property is on the company's "divestiture list." It will be sold.

Volunteers placing 'no dumping' medallions on storm drains to help keep the Tonawanda clean

By Howard B. Owens

The Tonawanda Creek is a tremendous natural resource, according to Elizabeth Bentley-Huber, and it should be kept clean.

Residents dumping pollutants into storm drains isn't as much of an issue as it once was, but Bentley-Huber, along with other members of the Tonawanda Creek Watershed Committee, want to promote the idea that our neighborhoods are linked to the creek.

"One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the water is treated between that drain and the creek," said Bentley-Huber, who is a district technician for the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District. "Whatever pollutants and chemicals it picks up are directly washed right into the creek."

To help promote the idea that we shouldn't dump or wash chemicals into the drains, the committee has purchased through a soil and water conservation district grant, a thousand medallions to place on storm drains.

Committee members are going out each Saturday as volunteers, weather permitting, and affixing the medallions to storm drains.

Bentley-Huber said the creek could really become a bigger part of our community, an attraction for people looking for outdoor recreation.

One of the biggest problems is clearing out the 43-mile stretch (11 miles in a straight line) of creek between Attica and Batavia. Log jams on the long, flat stretch can be a big problem, especially for boaters.

"That’s a lot of nice creek," she said. "It could be open for boating, and with the economy the way it is, people are looking for more inexpensive recreation.  Boating, canoeing or kayaking on the Tonawanda would be very nice."

Seasonal guests: Wood ducks on their autumn stopover


Each year about this time, like clockwork, wood ducks descend on a stretch of the Tonawanda Creek where it flows behind our home. The wood ducks feel right at home there, dabbling on the acorns which fall from the red oaks lining the bank.

No doubt they also are drawn to the calm, flat water and abundant shoreline vegetation. Overhanging bushes and vines provide ample cover.

Along the narrow corridor of Tonawanda Creek it's not difficult to see wood ducks during the month of October. In fact, I expect to see them whenver I walk to the creek bank, or at the very least, hear that unique call they make -- some might call it a squeal while others say it's more like a high-pitched whistle/whine.  

Taking pics of wood ducks on Tonawanda Creek is one thing, the wide open spaces of the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area is another story. The sloughs and backwaters here are ideal for ducks, but the place is so vast, it's easy to be in one place while the ducks are in another.

Tailor-made as this place is, on this morning I had seen only a handful of ducks, all moving too fast and too far away for photos. When I saw the stick nest pictured above, I decided to zoom in. 

That's when I saw the ducks in the background, rapidly dropping in altitude and heading for the flooded timber.

Is it mere coincidence that one of the most colorful species of waterfowl is on hand during that part of the autumn season when foliage is tinted to the max?

While wood ducks are among the first waterfowl to arrive, they will also be among the first to depart for warmer climes. As I watched the wood ducks swim back and forth among floating leaves on the creek behind our home, I knew that all too soon they will be winging it southward for an extended period of time. 

Whatever the species, be it wood duck or mallard, canvasback or Canada goose, there is graceful symmetry in the flight of waterfowl, and something sublime in a creature that beats its wings an incredible number of times each minute at altitudes and for distances that boggle the mind.

DEC starts project to control flooding on a portion of the Tonawanda Creek

By Howard B. Owens

A decades-old tree was removed from the banks of the Tonawanda Creek today and the property owner hopes people understand -- it wasn't by his choice.

The tree removal is part of the Department of Environmental Conservation's effort to control flooding along the Tonawanda.

The location is off South Main Street Road, just east of the intersection with Fairway Drive (see map below).

Nate Fix, who owns Rebel Liners on West Main Street Road, bought the nine-acre parcel in 2005. Most of the land can only be used for agriculture. He can never build on it because of a DEC easement.

The DEC contacted Fix and told him about the tree removal and plans to cut away and deepen the creek bank.

"It was a beautiful old tree, but I understand why they're doing it," Fix said.

A few years ago, Fix said, floodwaters rose to about 4 feet on his property.

Mark Malinoski, DEC director of operations, said today that the project will provide more capacity for the Tonawanda in that section of the creek, which makes an abrupt right turn there before turning again sharply toward the west.

The improvements were recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Besides removing several tons of soil, the DEC contractors will strategically place bolders along the creek in order to dissipate the energy of water flow to slow erosion in that section.

The creek bed has moved several feet north since the 1930s. In fact, Fix's property line actually extends into the creek, which is anomaly along the creek through Genesee County.

Throughout most of the county, the creek and a bit of bank on each side are public property.

"I pay taxes on that portion of the property, too," Fix said.

The tree came down, Malinoski said, because of its proximity to the creek bank.  Such trees actually speed up the erosion process because the water bores in at the roots and hollows out the bank around the roots.

Fix said the DEC offered him the wood from the tree as well as all the topsoil being removed. Fix gave the solid to his neighbor Bob Dickinson, owner of Dickinson Auto Service. Dickinson said he was thrilled to get the soil, which is filling in a large depression in the back of his lot.

Photos: Geese hanging out in the Tonawanda Creek

By Howard B. Owens

A group of geese were behind Settler's -- as there often is -- and keeping cool in the Tonawanda this afternoon.

The temperature today is 76 degrees with humidity at 56 percent.

Thunderstorms are expected between 6 and 8 p.m.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the 80s by Wednesday with lots of sun.

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