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WASHINGTON – The Army Corps of Engineers is backing away, for now at least, from its plan to shrink employment at its Buffalo district office.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, announced Monday that he had received a letter from the corps, saying that it has delayed a plan to cut office support staff in Buffalo and Chicago, and to consolidate those operations in the corps’ Detroit office.

“Based on feedback I received, I have paused implementation of this division-led initiative,” wrote Brig. Gen. Margaret W. Burcham, who commands the corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division.

“The feedback we received from various Congressional members and staffers indicates a desire to better understand our rationale and planning processes, personnel impacts, and impact to our customers as we continue to seek more efficient business methods to address increasing fiscal challenges.”

Burcham told Collins that she will update him further the next time she visits Capitol Hill or if she decides to move forward with the cuts, adding: “I assure you that any plans will strive to minimize personnel impacts across the region.”

Burcham’s move comes about six weeks after the House, by voice vote, approved an amendment barring the corps from implementing the consolidation plan.

While that amendment has not yet been considered by the Senate, the House move put huge pressure on the corps to scuttle its planned consolidation.

And Collins, for one, wonders whether Burcham’s decision to “pause” the consolidation really means she is abandoning the plan.

“There are fights to fight, and fights not to fight,” Collins said. “This may be the end of it.”

The corps never said exactly how many jobs it planned to cut in Buffalo because of the plan. But Collins and Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, worried that a consolidation could turn the Buffalo district – which serves the territory from Massena to Toledo, Ohio, and employs about 280 – into a field office with far fewer employees.

“The intent was to create a viable nucleus in a central location for functions that were inefficient and more expensive if they remained dispersed,” Burcham said.

Now, though, Burcham said she is directing the district commanders in Buffalo, Detroit and Chicago to come up with other ways of reducing overhead “to ensure we are providing the citizens of the Great Lakes region the most value for their federal dollar.”

email: jzremski@buffnews.com