SALAMANCA — The Seneca Nation has responded to comments made at a recent Great Valley Town Board meeting regarding the proposed sewer district in Kill Buck, calling the town supervisor’s comments on the Nation’s position “off-base” and “insulting.”

As previously reported in the Press, the town board recently received an update from the town engineer and engineering consultant regarding a potential sewer project in the hamlet of Kill Buck.

It was reported that the project could not cover all of Kill Buck due to a grant for the project study not applying to the portion of the hamlet located on the Seneca Nation Territory.

At the meeting, Town Supervisor Dan Brown said, “It’s just unfortunate that the Seneca Nation and the city of Salamanca won’t work with us to create a district to cover it all. It not only benefits the Seneca Nation but the town and the earth.”

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong, Sr. took a strong exception to any insinuation that the Nation was being uncooperative.

“The reality is that our engineers met with town and county officials about a possible new sewer district a few years ago,” he said in a statement to The Press.

“On June 6, 2018, the city of Salamanca and the Seneca Nation all came to the town of Great Valley, and we met at the town hall and put together a plan to try to alleviate the sewage problem,” Brown said Tuesday. “Everyone was in agreement that there is a problem through that corridor and it needs to be addressed.”

Brown said the Cattaraugus County Health Department also attended that meeting and is aware of the sewage problems.

As a federally recognized Indian nation, President Armstrong said the Seneca Nation receives and is eligible for funding to address and maintain sewer needs on its territories. By federal regulation, those funds cannot extend off Nation territory and must be deployed for the sole benefit of Seneca Nation members.

Brown said Armstrong is correct that the town’s study for the project and a study on the territory would have been done separately due to separate funding sources. He said the study amounts to counting the number of homes, the number of residents and the number of gallons of sewage that would be created from that area.

“If the Nation could do that, then the Great Valley plan on the north side of 417 and their plan on the south side of 417 could be put together, and then an agreement between the city and the Nation would have to be made,” Brown explained.

Additionally, Brown said he misspoke when saying Salamanca would not work with the town. He instead meant an agreement between the city and Nation has to happen to cover the parts of Kill Buck on Seneca Territory in order for a project to cover the entire district.

“The city has worked very well with the town, and Dennis Hensel (Salamanca BPU General Manager) bent over backward helping the plan, helping the design and helping the town engineers,” Brown said. “The city has the capacity to take the sewage from Kill Buck, and that was the city of Salamanca working with the town.”

In his statement, Armstrong said the proposal would have been inordinately expensive for the Nation and its members who live in the Sullivan Hollow area of Kill Buck because of the drastically increased sewer fees that would have been imposed on its residents.

“We can address the current and future needs on our territory in other ways without exposing our members to higher sewer fees in perpetuity,” he said.

Brown said the current plan for a system does not extend to the Sullivan Hollow area, with the sewer line ending in the Hardscrabble Road area. However, he said a water line from Salamanca could extend up to Sullivan Hollow, but that system also needs to be redone.

“The line needs to be upgraded very badly,” Brown said. “If we do this all together, then every problem can be addressed and managed.”

President Armstrong also pointed to the Nation’s history of working with its neighbors. In 2017, the Nation signed a water services agreement with the town of North Collins, adjacent to the Cattaraugus Territory, under which the Nation provides safe drinking water to residents in the nearby hamlet of Lawtons. Likewise, during the development of its Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino in Salamanca, he said the Nation constructed its own wastewater treatment plant, so as not to overburden the existing Salamanca BPU system.

“Our doors are always open to discussion on issues of cooperation and mutual benefit,” Armstrong said. “In this case, the mutual benefit doesn’t exist. The town certainly weighed cost factors for its residents when considering its sewer project. As a government, it is more than appropriate for the Seneca Nation to protect our people in the same way. In fact, it is our sworn responsibility.”

“The goal is to solve the problem, whether it’s on Nation ground or on town ground,” Brown said. “We all have to work together and each entity has to do its part.”

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)