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Army Corps Winks at Altered River Public Relations Man Explains it Away

State Parks blocked off the riverlet of the Niagara, but didn't bother to check with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Niagara Falls Reporter story, "Corps of Engineers Is Probing State Parks," (April 3) has gotten a reaction: The shuck and jive.

The story was about how the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation plowed over a riverlet of the Niagara River separating Goat Island and the first of the Three Sisters Islands in the Niagara Falls State Park without getting US Army Corp of Engineers approval, as is required by law.

This permit would have required an environmental study and public hearings. At first, the Army Corps seemed concerned.

Joseph Kassler, a Corps enforcement officer, confirmed the river and shoreline alterations were done without State Parks obtaining federal permits, a serious violation of law.

Kassler told the Reporter that Corps had opened an investigation.

Requests for comment from New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and Western District Director Mark Thomas went unanswered.

After the story was published, however, there was a shift in Army protocol.

Instead of Kassler being permitted to discuss the matter further, the Reporter was informed that Public Affairs Officer, Bruce Sanders would now speak on the matter.

Sanders told the Reporter that "The Corps considers this case a matter of non-compliance rather than a violation. (State Parks) presumed the work was covered by a Corps of Engineers Nationwide Permit based on assurance from their consultant. …This makes it non-compliance rather than a violation."

A consultant made a blunder, the Army public affairs officer said, therefore, without permits, environmental impact studies, or anything else, one can plow over part of the Niagara River without penalty.

That's good to know.

The Corps' public relations specialist added that the Corps "received (from State Parks) a revised application package on April 18th and are currently reviewing it." While Corps is reviewing, State Parks is wrapping up the work. Whatever damage that was done is done.

For their part, State Parks knows the adage, "It's better to beg forgiveness, than ask permission."



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 28, 2013