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Revitalizing inactive waterfront industrial sites, such as acreage along the Niagara River in the Town of Tonawanda, is the goal of federal legislation proposed this week.
"This is a beautiful view we have - right here," Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said during an appearance Friday morning on the former Rattlesnake Island in Tonawanda. "It's a beautiful potential development site.
Thursday, Gillibrand - who's running for re-election in November - and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, introduced the Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act in their respective houses of Congress.
Slaughter first proposed the bill in 2008, but that legislation and a resubmission in 2009 never made it out of committee.
The act proposes competitive grants, of up to $500,000, to local government and non-profit agencies that redevelop abandoned, idled or underused industrial properties on waterfronts. It also calls for establishing a task force to identify similar existing and potential funding sources, among other things.
The proposal calls for the appropriation of $220 million annually in fiscal years 2013 through 2017.
Once separated from the mainland by the Erie Canal, Rattlesnake Island was pristine farmland before it was sold in the early 1900s and became Wickwire-Spencer Steel Co.
The plant closed in the mid-1960s, and the property now is part of Niagara River World Inc., a warehousing facility.
"We are excited about future opportunities here," said company President Bonnie M. Leto, whose family has owned the property for decades.
The site is a priority project in the town's master plan, which envisions mixed-use development and public access to the waterfront.
"The Town of Tonawanda strongly endorses the Waterfront Brownfields Revitalization Act," said Town Supervisor Anthony F. Caruana.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation already has cleaned up the worst areas of contamination on the Niagara River World property, Caruana said.
Some structures and building foundations still need to be removed.
Demolition and site clearance costs were estimated at $2.1 million, according to Gillibrand's office.
"What was once lost to town residents is on the verge of being reclaimed - for us and for future generations," Caruana said.
Jill Spisiak Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, also was on hand Friday to endorse the proposed legislation.
"There's a tremendous potential for brownfields revitalization through this program," she said.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com