There’s more good news for cleanup and restoration efforts along the Buffalo River. As projects continue to spring up at sites like RiverWorks and Riverbend, it is even more imperative that the entire river ecosystem is taken into consideration, not just a few key sites. Beyond the big development projects, the Buffalo River is becoming a haven for kayakers and recreational boaters. Each year more and more people take to the river – a river that was once considered dead.
Even after all of the cleanup efforts, how clean will the water of the Buffalo River be? What will be acceptable when considering wading, fishing, kayaking and even swimming?
There is an increased effort to remove the Buffalo River from the list of Great Lakes “toxic hotspots” by 2019 (determined by Great Lakes Commission). That’s a mere five years away, and without continued financial support those goals will not be realized.
It has been announced that $4.7 million is being dedicated to seven sites along the Buffalo River. These key sites will see degraded shorelines restored, along with the creation of natural habitats. This latest effort is thanks to a culmination of efforts by Riverkeeper to restore balance on the Buffalo River, and is intended to create a revived waterfront resource for all to enjoy (thoroughly).
“For 25 years, Riverkeeper has advanced a vision of a thriving Buffalo Riverfront, one that establishes a healthy and restored waterway as the foundation for community and economic revitalization,” said Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper executive director. “Riverkeeper and our partners are accomplishing something that was deemed impossible-the restoration and recovery of a once-dead river. Through the combination of innovative collaborations, our ability to secure highly competitive funding and the desire of the community to reclaim its waterfront, together we are transforming our region from rust to blue.”
Buffalo is now just realizing the potential of its waterfront, after being squandered for generations. With State and Federal agencies as partners, and continued dredging efforts by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), along with major private and Buffalo Billion economic investments there is a new network of players keen to see the Buffalo River reach full potential.
“The Buffalo River restoration is a critical element of Buffalo’s economic and environmental revitalization, and this new funding adds even more energy and momentum to Buffalo’s resurgence,” said New York DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens. “I’m very excited by this opportunity to partner with NOAA, the Great Lakes Commission and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to enhance the Buffalo River’s shoreline habitat. I warmly welcome the Great Lakes Commission to the great City of Buffalo for its 2014 Annual Meeting.”
Latest funding efforts come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Federal program not only addresses polluted “Areas of Concern” along the river, but also in Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Commission and Riverkeeper will be tackling these cleanup initiatives over the next three years.
“Buffalo’s waterfront is undergoing one of the largest river restoration and economic revitalization efforts in the country and is a leading example of how environmental remediation can drive economic development,” said Great Lakes Commission Executive Director Tim Eder. “The Great Lakes Commission is thrilled to be able to help advance the ‘Blue Economy’ in Buffalo.”
The targeted seven sites encompass two miles of shoreline and more than 20 acres of habitat. The sites situated along the lower Buffalo River are: Riverbend, Riverfest Park, Blue Tower Turning Basin, Old Bailey Woods, Ohio Street Boat Launch, Katherine Street Peninsula and Buffalo Color Peninsula.
“The industrialization of the past century helped make our country strong, but it also came with costs to our environment,” said Buck Sutter, Director of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. “The restoration we’re doing today reflects smart, long-term thinking about the future. NOAA is proud to be supporting this community in its efforts to restore the Buffalo River and to create a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for the next generation.”
“Western New York thrives off of its proximity to fresh water,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “As our waterfront transforms we are increasingly aware of the interconnectivity between the water and the local economy. Continued federal investment in restoring the Buffalo River is an environmental and economic win for residents today and future generations. We commend the Great Lakes Commission and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper for their stewardship and commitment to our lakes and rivers.”