Coast Guard, Army Corps Of Engineers Respond To Grain Elevator Tower Demolition

December 3, 2011 Updated Dec 3, 2011 at 5:57 PM EDT

By WKBW Internet

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December 3, 2011 Updated Dec 3, 2011 at 5:57 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/ release) To ensure the safety of boating traffic on the Buffalo River, Coast Guard personnel are continuing to monitor this morning the response to debris that fell into the river Friday night near Ganson Street.

Ontario Specialty Contracting, a demolition company, reported debris falling into the river after the company demolished the former grain elevator near the waterfront.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel from Sector Buffalo and Station Buffalo immediately responded to assess the situation and ensure that there were no immediate hazards to maritime safety.

At present, the waterway is open to maritime vessels, with no restrictions to vessel traffic. However, as crews begin to salvage the debris, mariners are advised to proceed cautiously and monitor their marine radios on FM Channel 16 for any marine information broadcasts.

“My concern is that we fully assess the site and work closely with our partner agencies and Ontario Specialty Contracting to ensure a safe and effective recovery of the debris and the restoration of safe navigation on the Buffalo River,” stated Capt. Steve Wischmann, commander of Coast Guard Sector Buffalo.

Built in 1909, the Wheeler Grain Elevator stood as a relic to Buffalo history as an industrial powerhouse and major player in the grain trade.

Today, that same elevator complex sits partly demolished, with some structure debris resting in the adjacent Buffalo River.

"Buffalo is famous world wide, the Old First Ward is famous world wide for their grain elevators and their contribution to modern architecture," said Tim Tielman, Chairman of Greater Buffalo, History, Architecture and Culture, who worked to prevent the demolition of elevator complex.

The owner of the elevator, Ontario Specialty Contracting, Inc. was also the group demolishing the structure. Attorneys representing the company say what happened Friday afternoon was not a collapse, but all part of a controlled demolition.

They released a statement Friday evening saying:

"Today's events were not a collapse. This was a controlled demolition process and the structure was purposefully taken down today as planned. There were no injuries and the operation was successful."

Tielman wonders if debris in the Buffalo River was part of the plan, saying, "They got to the Buffalo River and took inadequate precaution for public safety and it fell into the Buffalo River."

Ontario Specialty Contracting promises to remove all the debris from the river promptly, and the U.S. Coast Guard issued a broadcast alert warning boaters of the debris in the waterway, however they say it is not a navigation hazard.