Community leaders, private industry, state and federal representatives joined forces this week to kick off the next phase of restoration of 6.2 miles of the Buffalo River. This internationally recognized project is one of the largest river clean-ups in the country. The Buffalo River Restoration Partnership includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes National Program Office, Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, Honeywell, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Over the last decade, the combined efforts from the various partners in this partnership have leveraged nearly $75 million dollars into restoration of the Buffalo River and its shoreline, making it one of the Great Lakes most successful revitalization efforts.
“For the past twenty five years, Riverkeeper has put forth a vision for a thriving Buffalo Riverfront, one that looks to a healthy and restored waterway as the foundation for revitalization”, said Jill Jedlicka, Riverkeeper Executive Director. “Through the combination of innovative partnerships, the ability to secure highly competitive funding, and the desire of the community to reclaim its waterfront, together we are making the transformation from rust to blue”.
Over the last five years, the federal government has committed $1.37 billion to Great Lakes restoration investing in habitat restoration, removal of toxic sediment, removal of invasive species and green infrastructure. In New York State alone, 108 restoration projects have been supported, some of which have contributed to rebuilding habitats and fisheries in the Buffalo Niagara watershed, reducing storm water pollution and improving water quality.
“We see the benefits of Western New York’s proximity to fresh water growing at a rapid pace and this project is essential to sustaining that momentum,” said Congressman Brian Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. “Restoring the Buffalo River makes sense environmentally and economically. I commend the project partners whose contributions today will improve the Buffalo River for generations to come.”
Water restoration investments have set the foundation for the dynamic changes we are now seeing along the Buffalo River with major industrial sites restored, new private sector developments, eco-tourism and water sports once again thriving. According to research from the Brookings Institute, every $1 invested in restoration generates $2 in economic benefit and up to $4 in economic activity through jobs, development, tourism, and property values.
“Honeywell is proud to be working in partnership with the Great Lakes National Program Office of EPA, the Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, the DEC, and the U.S. Army Corps on a cleanup that reflects the community’s vision of a restored Buffalo River,” said Evan van Hook, Honeywell Vice President for Health, Safety, Environment, and Sustainability. “The remediation utilizes each partner’s knowledge, resources, and expertise and is a catalyst for economic development as well as expanded recreational opportunities.”
This unique partnership brings together resources and expertise to the plan comprehensive cleanup of the Buffalo River. This includes employing innovative and integrated solutions to key challenges that still exist with the Buffalo River, including contaminated river sediments, poor water quality, and insufficient fish and wildlife habitat.
This project follows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2011-2012 navigational dredging that removed 550,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the middle of the river. This environmental cleanup will remove approximately 488,000 cubic yards, about 33,000 truckloads, of contaminated sediment from the sides of the river.
In 1987, the Buffalo River was officially designated as a federal “Area of Concern” or AOC, one of 43 sites across Great Lakes. Most of the beneficial impairments to the Buffalo River are related to the toxic chemicals still present in the bottom sediments. The remedy includes dredging nearly 1 million cubic yards of sediment from the river. Nearly 400,000 cubic yards were dredged by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2011. After surviving several threats in Congress to de-fund the Great Lakes Legacy Act, the Buffalo River restoration effort has been elevated as a top priority for the US EPA, and is a national demonstration of how unique partnerships leverage resources to achieve major waterfront cleanups.
The Buffalo River Restoration Partnership includes Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER, NYS DEC, U.S. EPA, U.S. Army Corps, and Honeywell.
Photo – From left to right: Don Zelazny, Great Lakes Program Coordinator, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); County Executive Mark Poloncarz; NYS Senator Tim Kennedy; Cameron Davis, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director, Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER; Congressman Brian Higgins; Lieutenant Colonel Beaudoin; District Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and, Evan van Hook, Vice President of Health, Safety, Environment & Sustainability, Honeywell.