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 1987. 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 in the Buffalo River AOC. The GLC is working with local partner Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to implement restoration projects, two of which have been completed. Six additional restoration sites are currently in the design phase and should be complete in 2017.
The NOAA-GLC partnership projects will enhance and restore of nearly two miles of shoreline and twenty acres of habitat at eight sites along the Buffalo River.  These projects will result in the creation of more natural and stable shorelines; treatment of stormwater; control and management of invasive species; reductions in erosion; and control of sedimentation to create economically valuable waterfront destinations. These projects are expected to culminate in formal removal of the Buffalo River from the list of Great Lakes AOCs.

Project Summary

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 1987, Buffalo River was designated a Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC) as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Since 2013, the NOAA-GLC partnership projects have 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 will enhance and restore habitat; create more natural and stable shoreline; treat stormwater; control and manage invasive species; reduce erosion; and control sedimentation in the AOC to create economically valuable waterfront destinations.

The GLC is working with NOAA, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other partners to complete this work in 2017. These projects are expected to culminate in formal removal, or de-listing of  the Buffalo River  from the list of AOCs.

Project Partners

Funding

Approximately $5.9 million has 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

Heather Braun
Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration Program Manager
Great Lakes Commission
734‐971‐9135
[email protected]

Eric Ellis
Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration Senior Program Specialist
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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