Habitat Restoration in Great Lakes Areas of Concern: Buffalo River

NOAA-GLC Regional Habitat Restoration Partnership

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are leading efforts to restore several critical Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) — the worst “toxic hotspots” in the region. Due to a legacy of heavy industrial use, New York’s Buffalo River was considered biologically dead as recently as the 1960s and was declared an AOC in 1989. Since 2013, the GLC has received Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding through its partnership with NOAA to restore nearly two miles of shoreline and twenty acres of habitat at eight sites along the lower Buffalo River AOC. The GLC worked with local partner Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to complete restoration at the eight restoration sites in 2018. Post-restoration monitoring of the sites was completed in fall 2018.

Environmental Benefits:

  • Restored about two miles of shoreline and 20 acres of habitat
  • Enhanced fish and wildlife habitat
  • Increased natural and stable shoreline
  • Reduced invasive species
  • Restoration brings the Buffalo River closer to being delisted as an AOC

Community Benefits:

  • Improved water quality and ecosystem health
  • Created aesthetically beautiful sites
  • Increased water-based recreation, sport-fishing, and wildlife viewing
  • Reduced storm-water runoff and erosion

Economic Benefits:

  • Improved habitat for species important to sport fishing tourism
  • Increased recreation and tourism opportunities
  • Reduced erosion and sedimentation

Buffalo River Habitat Restoration Project

The Buffalo River was considered biologically dead as recently as the 1960s, with extremely low levels of dissolved oxygen, high temperatures, stagnant flows, and lack of any life other than extremely hardy or pollution-tolerant plant and fish species. In 1989, Buffalo River was designated a Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC) as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987.

Since 2013, the NOAA-GLC partnership has worked to enhance and restore nearly two miles of shoreline and twenty acres of habitat across eight sites in the Buffalo River AOC. The Buffalo River restoration projects enhanced and restored habitat, created more natural and stable shoreline, treated storm-water, controlled and managed invasive species (primarily Japanese Knotweed Fallopia japonica), reduced erosion, and controlled sedimentation in the AOC to create economically valuable waterfront destinations.

In collaboration with NOAA, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other partners, the eight restoration projects were completed in 2018. These projects are expected to remove several beneficial use impairments (BUIs), and ultimately help advance the delisting of the Buffalo River as an AOC by 2022.

Project Partners

  

 

 

Funding

Just under $6 million was been awarded to this project by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  GLRI is a federal program designed to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world — the Great Lakes.  The project funding was provided via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through a Regional Partnership with the Great Lakes Commission.

For More Information

Eric Ellis
Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration
Project Manager
Great Lakes Commission
734‐396‐6089
[email protected]

Katherine Winkler
Director, Ecological Design & Implementation
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
716-852-7483 (Ext. 15)
[email protected]

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