Buffalo Area Citizens Group Working With U.S. Federal and State Partners on Habitat Restoration Projects in Niagara River Watershed

Environmental Restoration Efforts Continue on American side of Niagara River

News from Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and the Office of Brian Higgins, U.S. Congressman for Buffalo area.

Posted October 19th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

Buffalo, New York – Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Congressman Brian Higgins and state and federal partners provided an up close look this past Monday, October 16th on the quickly progressing habitat restoration at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Ohio Street Boat Launch.

Buffalo, New York area Congressman Brian Higgins (right) speaks this past October 16th, as Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper reps and other partners look on as ongoing efforts to restore habtitat on American side of Niagara River watershed are outlined.

Through the investment of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, this popular park is being enhanced to include improved wildlife habitat and public access to the Buffalo River along the Ohio Street Corridor.

“Remediation of the Buffalo River has been active for nearly a decade, however we are finally at the stage of this effort where the restoration work is becoming more visible”, said Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

“Not only are we physically improving the landscape and aesthetics of the riverfront, but the shoreline restoration and upland meadow habitats will bring new life and health to this once dead river. None of the work at eight different sites would have happened if it wasn’t for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the dedicated local, state and federal partners.”

Congressman Higgins said, “Ohio Street is a national example of the economic opportunities that come with federal investments in infrastructure and clean water.  Just a few short years ago there was very little activity on this section of the Buffalo River.

The past October 16th, thanks to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s leadership in river restoration, and an $11 million investment that transformed Ohio Street from a crumbling industrial roadway into a beautiful riverfront parkway, we have new restaurants, residential living and public parks and paths up and down Ohio Street.  This project continues investments in natural resources driving private sector investment and public enthusiasm along Ohio Street.”

The habitat restoration project at the NYSDEC Ohio Street Boat Launch will transform the flat, mowed grass areas into a better structured pollinator meadow for wildlife to thrive. The site design is intended to enhance fishing access and picnic areas with seat walls and plantings for the public to enjoy.

The area will be planted with basswood trees, an ecologically and culturally important tree species to the region. In addition, dogwood, milkweed, beebalm, and asters will be planted to support stressed pollinator species. Pollinator plants are currently rare along the Buffalo River, so increasing their presence will naturally attract more butterflies, birds, and bats into the area.

Niagara River watershed from space. Habitat restoration efforts continue in earnest on American side.

“This innovative project is another important piece in the continued revitalization of the Buffalo River,” said Abby Snyder, Regional Director of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  “DEC applauds Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s efforts and we look forward to continued collaboration with all partners to restore this important resource.”

Beginning in 2013, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has partnered with the Great Lakes Commission in order to administer funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to restore habitat along nearly two miles of shoreline and 20 acres of habitat at eight project sites along the Buffalo River.

The goal of the GLC/NOAA partnership is to restore habitat in Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) —toxic hotspots in the Great Lakes. Up to $70 million from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding (GLRI) is currently being directed to key sites needing restoration across the Great Lakes Basin.

“We are proud to work with local, state and federal partners to restore areas challenged by historic pollution across the Great Lakes, including Buffalo River,” said Tom Crane, Interim Executive Director of the GLC. “Restoration generates both environmental and economic benefits by creating jobs, providing new recreational opportunities, and improving quality of life.”

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is a multi-year, multi-agency effort to clean up pollution, improve shorelines, combat invasive species, and restore fish and wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes basin. Since the program began, the federal government has invested nearly $40 million in Great Lakes funding into the Buffalo River corridor in a variety of projects that will help to remove the area from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern. GLRI funding is currently being targeted for elimination in the 2018 federal budget.

An international success story, the restoration of the Buffalo River has impacted more than the ecology of the region. Restoration efforts have inspired private and public investments in economic development projects throughout the river corridor. A prime example is the revitalization of the Ohio Street corridor, that recently was only viewed as a post-industrial wasteland. Ohio Street has now experienced a surge of new development over the past five years—with restaurants and multi-use residential complexes being built along the banks of the recovering Buffalo River.

“We are pleased that the residents at our Buffalo River Landing project right next door will be able to enjoy the improvements at the Ohio Street Boat Launch Park—just as they have been enjoying the improvements along the Ohio Street corridor and the activity in and along the Buffalo River,” said Sam Savarino, President and CEO of Savarino Companies, a property owner in the restoration area.

“There is a direct link between habitat restoration and private commercial and residential investment along the Buffalo River. Recent projects such as Buffalo River Landing, the apartments at 301 Ohio Street, Silo City and Riverworks are, in fact, integrally connected to a now active and living Buffalo River.”

The Great Lakes Commission is an interstate compact agency that represents, advises and assists its member states and provinces by fostering dialogue, developing consensus, facilitating collaboration and speaking with a unified voice to advance collective interests and responsibilities to promote economic prosperity and environmental protection and to achieve the balanced and sustainable use of Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin water resources.  For more information on the Great Lakes Commission, click here http://www.glc.org/about/

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world—the Great Lakes.  For more information on projects and priorities, click here https://www.glri.us/

Buffalo Niagara WATERKEEPER’s mission is to protect and restore our water and surrounding ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. We PROTECT clean water. We RESTORE the health of ecosystems. We CONNECT people to the water. We INSPIRE economic growth and community engagement.

For more information about Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, please visit BNWaterkeeper.org or contact Jennifer Fee at jfee@bnwaterkeeper.org, or call 716-852-7483 ex 13

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For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

 

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