by Jen Nalbone,
Great Lakes United
The Buffalo River is one of 43 “toxic hot spots” in the Great Lakes Basin that have been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the International Joint Commission (IJC) as “areas of concern” (AOC). The river and its sediments have been impaired by over a century of industrial activities and municipal waste discharges. Contamination of the river channel continues today from upstream non-point sources, combined sewer overflow systems, and historic contaminants contained in river sediments and riverfront brownfields.
Flowing through several of Buffalo’s poorest neighborhoods, including the Old First Ward, Valley, Seneca—Babcock, South Park—Bailey communities, the river presents a continuing health risk to the community, which utilizes the river for swimming and fishing. In addition, the mouth of the Buffalo River is the site of a $27.1 million Buffalo Inner Harbor economic development project where impacts and accessibility will be undermined by the river’s continuing contamination.
Last fall, Friends of the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers (FBNR) undertook a collaborative initiative with Great Lakes United to organize the Buffalo River Partnership, an unincorporated association of non-profits, technical advisors, scientists, businesses, academics, and government and agency representatives. The primary goal of the Buffalo River Partnership is to raise $70,000 of non-federal cash and in-kind services to serve as the required cost-share match for $200,000 in Federal Water Resources Development Act funding for the planning, engineering, and design of plans to remove contaminated sediments, improve water quality, and restore habitats to the Buffalo River.
The non-federal cost share match will be comprised of several local river restoration efforts:
The Friends have submitted grant proposals to the EPA, Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, and the Army Corps of Engineers for funding to administer the Partnership and coordinate project outreach and volunteer efforts.