Fish in Cattaraugus Creek could be swimming in new waters for the first time in almost a century.
For 93 years, fish have been blocked from swimming a 70-mile length of Catt Creek, but that is expected to change in 2018 when a project will likely be completed to connect the upper and lower parts of Scoby Dam in Springville.
Jeff Hintz of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing the $6.6 million project. He told WBFO the proposed work will have a positive impact on fish while also keeping out invasive sea lamprey.
“This project will allow fish passage to the upper watershed of the Cattaraugus Creek for ecosystem restoration,” Hintz said. “At the same time, it will prevent sea lamprey from being able to migrate and spawn into the upper watershed.”
Built in 1920, Scoby Dam is 182 feet long and 38 feet high. A fishing ramp will be built to lower a portion of the dam to 13 feet to allow fish access to its upper and lower parts of the dam.
The ramp will be a huge boost for anglers, as steelhead trout suckers, redhorse, darters would have access to both the upper and lower part of the dam.
“From what I understand from our team members who have expertise in that area and from discussions with the New York State DEC’s fishery’s people, I’m told that this activity, once completed, will make this fishery and watershed one the most important —if not the most important — fishery in the northeast,” he said.
Hintz noted that talks began in 2004, but he said funding issues delayed the project from picking up steam.
The Army Corps is working with Erie County and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to finalize the project.
“If this project goes forward and we aren’t impeded by funding appropriation constraints, we will have this thing completed by the end of 2018,” Hintz said. “It should avail the Cattaraugus Creek and its tributaries to better sport fishing and more access for fishing recreation.”