Southern Tier West Broadband Program May Assist West Valley Nuclear

SALAMANCA – Southern Tier West has been in the process of developing a regionwide broadband Internet project since 2008 with movement coming in slow paces. New information coming from a local nuclear site cleanup project may offer a way to help the site and the board all at once.

Robert Keis, Southern Tier West board president, told members of his board that he has received information that the Internet connection at both the administrative offices and the actual cleanup site for the West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project is too slow for their needs and may cause potentially large problems.

One of the problems, Kies said, was that the company that is contracted to do the site cleanup work, CH2M Hill, has to transmit large amounts of data to the federal Department of Energy on a daily basis. The T1 line, according to Keis, does not have enough capacity to do the job needed.

Though he did not discuss the individual that gave him the information, Keis said the facilities are equipped with a T1 Internet connections that were approved and purchased by members of the Cattaraugus County Legislature in the late 1990s or early 2000s. The lines were state of the art when they went in, but have found themselves to be obsolete and never upgraded as the project was passed from manager to manager for cleanup.

“Who would have thought that the site would be so outdated,” Kies said. “It just doesn’t make sense that such a problem exists. Maybe we can be the agency to help get this problem fixed.”

Conversations have been had with state Sen. Catharine Young, R- Olean, and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, about the situation, and letters have been requested to be sent to NYSERDA, the state agency in charge of the site, as well as Gov. Cuomo’s office to notify of the situation.

Kies said the matter is exactly where Southern Tier West should be.

“We need to be the place people go when they have problems like this,” Keis said. “This is a ludicrous problem. Southern Tier West, as an entity, does not have the funds to do anything with the problem but we are in a position to facilitate. We are not talking $500,000 to $1 million to fix this problem. We are talking about maybe $100,000.”

The situation, he continued, is one that should not be happening at a place like the West Valley demonstration project.

“With as much of a concern this place (West Valley Demonstration Project) has created, one has to ask, in this day and age, how can they keep getting kicked off the Internet?” he said.

An effort is underway to have those in position of authority at the facility write letters detailing the issue and send them to elected state officials, as well as federal officials representing the project and the area. The hope, according to Keis, is to find a better Internet capacity and access answers for the facilities, as well as the area, to help with security and safety, as well as keeping the project on track in decommissioning.

Attempts to contact officials with the demonstration site were unsuccessful.

In 2012, The Southern Tier West Development Foundation submitted an application to the NYS Broadband Connect program for the amount of $841,350. The program aims to add five locations to the Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access system, as part of the existing system, to offer more broadband Internet connectivity throughout Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Erie counties. A large push in this stage of broadband access will be in the medical side of access, to aid in compliance with paperless records, as well as hardware upgrades in libraries throughout the region. It is hoped that offering aid to the West Valley site will help in securing funding for these and future projects, Keis said.