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Repaired breakwater wall could be catalyst for more Oswego commerce

Payne Horning, Leah Landry
Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), left, Port of Oswego Chairman Terrence Hammill, center, and Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen cut the ribbon signifying the completion of the harbor's repaired breakwater wall.

Oswego officials commemorated the completion of its $19 million breakwater wall renovation Wednesday. The Oswego Harbor's wall stops incoming waves, but the magnitude of 2012's Superstorm Sandy devastated the structure.

"Just three years ago, Superstorm Sandy ravaged the northeast," said Lt. Col. Karl Jansen, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo district. "A lot of that attention goes to the Atlantic coast, but it impacted the great lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to a degree as well."

The new wall, which is finished a year ahead of schedule, was built with 973 large concrete structures called dollose that strengthen the harbor against future storms and prevent silt from flooding the port. That means bigger ships with more cargo can access the harbor, which Oswego Port Chairman Terrence Hammill said will help the local economy.

"It provides much greater export from going from central New York and wide ranges and ship stuff back to New York City and the rest of the world," Hammill said.

Rep. John Katko  (R-Camillus)said the renovation is a big step for the city as it prepares to lose millions in income and economic activity when the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant closes in about a year. He said Oswego's economy is evolving to focus more on trade, commerce and tourism.

"This really is the future of Oswego," Katko said. "We’re going to be able to have more ships come in and more heavily ladened ships come in. And the last five years, the Port of Oswego has had record upon record number of commerce and this is going to be a big building block to keep this going."

The breakwater wall is just one of several ways activists and officials are trying to bring improvements and recognition to the harbor. Efforts to make Lake Ontario a marine sanctuary and Fort Ontario a national park are underway, as is a volunteer-led restoration of the port's historic lighthouse.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.