Ellicott Creek will rise.
But Village of Williamsville officials anticipating an upcoming thaw took pre-emptive action Friday morning by having an excavator break up the creek’s ice cover and push accumulated debris downstream – a sight unseen since the surprise October storm of 2006.
“If we don’t keep the water flowing, it basically overflows the banks and we end up with flooded basements, flooded properties and flooded roads downstream,” said Trustee Chris Duquin.
Ryan Maj, assistant public works crew chief, operated the heavy machinery on the creek’s bedrock at the dam just south of Main Street. He used its bucket to nudge branches, 40-foot tree trunks and even a picnic table and trash can downstream toward Glen Falls.
“Almost immediately as he pulled the debris from the two middle sections of the dam, the water started to flow again and you could see the level of the water go down,” Duquin said.
The dam is at a critical point. Before flowing through Williamsville, the creek meanders through north Cheektowaga where homes in the Wehrle Drive area can be impacted if the dam is jammed, he said. Plates installed to control flow through the dam were removed early in the winter so the maximum amount of water can move through, he said. Homeowners were encouraged to clear their basement floors of any valuable items.
“Our goal is to the best of our ability mitigate the flooding that is pending for the coming weekend,” Duquin said.
Ken Kostowniak, public works crew chief, said the village was trying to be proactive by taking steps before melting snow and rain cause flooding.
“If we can expend just a few hundred dollars in manpower and equipment rental, hopefully that will save thousands of dollars down the road,” he said.
Kostowniak rented the excavator from Hertz Rental after consulting Thursday with Mayor Brian Kulpa and emergency management officials from the Town of Amherst and Erie County. Swift water rescue teams from the Williamsville and Getzville fire departments were stationed nearby as Maj worked.
“This job’s going beautifully, clearing the dam,” Kostowniak said. “Water level is dropping. Everything’s opened up. We should be in good shape.”
But village officials also expressed concern about possible backups of its sanitary storm sewer. Homeowners were encouraged to disconnect their sump pumps from the system, which caused problems during the most recent round of flooding in December.
“There’s no reason the sanitary storm sewer should get full unless people have their sump pumps tied into the sanitary storm sewer, which is illegal,” Duquin said.
Letters will be mailed soon notifying residents that the connections are illegal, he said.
“We’re going to start cracking down on it and correct this problem,” he said.