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WNY drought forcing marina to close docks early

Posted at 6:38 PM, Aug 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 14:45:56-04

The Onoville Marina Park in Cattaraugus County is a popular spot for boaters.  Situated on the Allegheny Reservoir, it is a destination for many across the Southern Tier.  But with this summer's drought, the below average water levels are forcing workers at the marina to make a tough decision.

"The normal summer pool [elevation] here is about 10 to 12 feet higher than it is right now," James Welch, manager of Onoville Marina Park said.  "That's because of the lack of rain."

The marina is closing its docks on August 19th, more than a month earlier than usual.  The drought left the area dry for most of this summer, and that is causing below average water levels.  Welch says if the boats are allowed to dock past August 12th, it would become dangerous to navigate the water around the marina.

Welch says he sees the water changing every single day.

"It drops about two tenths of a foot each day," he said.  "So we're losing about a foot of water every five days."

The dam that created the Allegheny Reservoir discharges about 1300 cubic feet of water every second.  An amount Welch says is not all that much.  But as days go by without any rain to make up the loss, the water level is soon going to be too low for most boats.

Derek Moritz of Gowanda uses the marina almost every weekend.  He says the weather this summer has been fantastic for boating, but it is coming with a cost.

"The weather is beautiful, but it's sort of a two sided sword," he said.  "When we don't have any rain the water level drops."

And then the boating season gets cut short.

The marina is not closing its boat launch with the docks.  It will stay open as long as the water levels allow.  Camping at Onoville Marina Park will remain open until September 19th.