by Maria Maybee
Great Lakes United
Residents of the Scajaquada Creek Watershed can tell you a lot of stories about this urban stream in Erie County, New York. They’ll talk about the floods, and the flood control projects of the 1970s and 1980s. They have accounts of deer in their backyards, looking for food sources that development has taken away. They recall stories about their parents swimming in the Black Rock section (Someone would call 911 and the haz mats crews would have to hose you off today.) And some folks who have been around for many years can tell you about when the creek disappeared, and that’s no tall tale. A three and one half mile section of Scajaquada Creek in the City of Buffalo was routed through an underground tunnel in the late 1920s in response to health concerns.
The spring-fed Scajaquada Creek is a local link with green space, outdoor recreation, and wildlife. Five municipalities, primarily Buffalo and Cheektowaga, share the responsibility of managing this watershed. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has identified impairments to Scajaquada Creek from sediments/silt, nutrients, pathogens, salts, thermal changes, oxygen demand, organics, water level/flow, and unknown toxicity. The sources of these pollutants are combined sewer overflows, storm sewers, contaminated sediment, land disposal, stream bank erosion, construction, chemical leaks/spills, and hydro-modification.
Land use of the Scajaquada Creek Watershed has demonstrated little concern for species that depend on the creek or for the creek itself. Municipalities have tended to view the creek more as a bother than as an asset. Aquatic species fall victim to traffic, pesticides, litter, industrial runoff, and loss of access due to sections being piped underground.
“All successful watershed management plans have grassroots support from those with an interest in the watershed,” stated Ellen Ilardo, Water Quality Technician from the District and Chair of the SCWAC Technical Committee. “Our goal is to gain valuable input from the people who interact with the stream every day and incorporate their concerns into a plan that will be feasible to put in place.”
Recently, people have been concerned enough about the creek to become involved in solving its many problems.The Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District (SCWAC) obtained funds to develop a Watershed Management Plan and establish the Scajaquada Creek Watershed Advisory Council. The SCWAC is comprised of citizens, businesses, educators, environmental organizations, community groups, and government officials who are cooperatively working to develop the watershed management plan. The SCWAC surveyed watershed residents and identified priority environmental concerns to use in developing watershed management strategies and goals.
The SCWAC recently received a grant from the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund to develop and distribute educational brochures for riparian landowners to protect and restore aquatic habitat in Scajaquada Creek. The brochures will highlight natural resources conservation practices such as stream bank vegetation maintenance, composting, Integrated Pest Management, roof water management, rain gardens, creating wildlife habitat, and more. Also included in the project will be a presentation and poster for nursery and garden center professionals so they may be better equipped to assist landowners in making plant, materials, and product choices. “We need to inform people living next to streams that there are ways to manage the streams so that they can better utilize them for recreation, and at the same time make them healthier for wildlife,” stated Ilardo.
Citizens have it in their power to create and enforce open space plans that set aside and protect wildlife and environmentally sensitive aquatic habitats that surround the Scajaquada Creek. Friends of Scajaquada Creek, a local citizens group, looks forward to collaborative efforts that bring real solutions to their backyard. Environmental groups like the Friends of the Buffalo-Niagara Rivers and the Scajaquada Pathway Committee promote green space corridors that will protect and connect them regionally.
But it is finally up to us, the citizens of the region and residents of the towns and cities through which rivers run, to learn about threats to the places in which we live and to ensure that our elected officials do their part to protect the rivers and special places.
|“From its source to its mouth, the whole of Scajaquada Creek is recognized as a living system, a recreational and health benefit to city and suburb, and a tribute to both the restorative powers of nature and the restorative wills of the water-loving people of Buffalo.”
– Margaret Wooster, Great Lakes United