Plan to Downsize Buffalo's Army Corps of Engineers

June 24, 2013 Updated Jun 24, 2013 at 8:29 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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June 24, 2013 Updated Jun 24, 2013 at 8:29 PM EDT


Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - Two local congressmen say a plan is in the works by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dramatically downsize its Buffalo district.

Congressmen Brian Higgins (D-26) and Chris Collins (R-27) sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demanding answers.

"For, what reason, General, are you doing this," Collins wants to know. "And that's what we plan to ask, and I don't think it can be justified."

"Especially considering the district being considered to take over these duties has a horrible track record on project management," Higgins added, "as evident by their role on a project that has more than $2 billion in overruns."

Currently, there are about 280 employees in the Buffalo district, which stretches from Massena, New York to Toledo, Ohio.

Their jobs include flood control, environmental projects and many aspects of taking care of the waterways.

A union representative says this comes as a blow to morale.

"A lot of them are not mobile. They're near retirement, but not ready for retirement. They've asked a lot of questions, but haven't gotten a lot of answers," says James Dean, the local representative of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Higgins and Collins say the impact could come onto dry land too -- even hurting Waterfront development.

"It's not only access from the land to the water, it's access from the water to the land. And the only way to achieve that is through safe, navigable waterways," Higgins explains.

Dean says those whose jobs could be uprooted, also worry that, "over the years, the Corps of Engineers has tried to cut districts and divisions. That's the fear -- that once they start, where is it going to end?"

In a letter to the General, Higgins and Collins say that closing or consolidating an Army Corps office without consent from Congress is illegal.

Eyewitness News reached out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a comment. They did not get back to us by deadline.