Buffalo River Restoration Project
View the Habitat Restoration/Dredging Updates webpage.
Transforming the Buffalo River into a Recreational, Economic, and Community Resource
View of Buffalo River looking north toward the Norfolk Southern rail bridge
Photo credit: K. Lachut
The Buffalo River Restoration Partnership began and completed majority of the environmental dredging of the Buffalo River in 2014. Contaminated sediment close to the banks of the river will be removed, limited areas capped, and habitat restored.
The Buffalo River Restoration Partnership, a unique public-private-non-profit partnership, including U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper® and Honeywell moved forward with plans to address a number of environmental problems affecting the Buffalo River. The environmental challenges included contaminated river sediments, poor water quality, a lack of safe public access, and insufficient fish and wildlife habitat. This partnership brought together diverse resources and expertise and has developed plans for a comprehensive cleanup and transformation of the river into a beneficial environmental, economic, and community resource.
The plans include two major environmental dredging projects, as well as habitat restoration projects. A map of the Buffalo River (PDF, 1.26 MB) shows the location of the dredging and restoration areas. The first project, begun by the USACE in August 2011, involves dredging contaminated sediments in the federal navigation channel using funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) (see link to USACE Buffalo Harbor Dredging Information in right column). This channel was created nearly a century ago to accommodate shipping and alleviate flooding of residential properties upstream. USACE is responsible for maintaining the channel.
Grain elevators line the sides of the Buffalo River. Photo by USACE
The second project, implemented with the oversight of the USEPA, commenced in fall 2013 and completed in fall 2014. The project addressed contaminated river sediments outside of the navigation channel. The remediation would occur mostly along the shoreline of the river in targeted areas of a 6.2 mile stretch of the lower Buffalo River and 1.4 mile stretch of the City Ship Canal, which is designated as an Area of Concern (AOC). An AOC is a formal federal designation given to 43 degraded water bodies within the Great Lakes Basin. This project is being planned and funded through the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA). The GLLA project will follow the USACE dredging of the federal navigation channel after completion of the remedial design. A Protection of Waters Permit under Article 15, Title 5 of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law is necessary for the implementation of this sediment remediation and habitat restoration project. The application is now considered complete and a Notice of Complete Application has been prepared for the project, as described in the June 2013 Fact Sheet (PDF, 82 KB).
The Cleanup: Mostly Complete!
This project follows the USACE's 2011-2012 navigation dredging
(shown above), which removed 550,000 cubic yards of
contaminated sediment from the middle of the river. Photo by USACE
The cleanup falls within the lower six miles of the Buffalo River and the City Ship Canal. The project was designed to minimize impact on river users. Approximately 488,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed using a clam-shell bucket. This is equivalent to about 33,000 truck loads. Monitoring will help make sure the water flowing downstream meets water quality standards. The material will be placed into barges and disposed of at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) about three miles south of the river, on the shore of Lake Erie. The CDF was specifically designed to contain dredged sediment. A small portion of the most contaminated materials will go to a government-approved landfill.
Environmental "silt" curtains will be used at a few locations, for short periods of time, to help prevent sediments from being dispersed. By law, dredging cannot impede navigation, so silt curtains will be moved if necessary. In order to enhance the remedy, capping material will be placed in a few areas. Capping isolates contaminated sediments from the ecosystem and also provides clean sediment habitat for small organisms that fish eat.
- Improved health of Buffalo River ecosystem
- Cleaner and revitalized river
- Enhanced habitat for fish and wildlife
- Improved navigation and access
- Opportunities for revitalization and redevelopment of Buffalo's waterfront and river corridor
- Improved recreational opportunities
Buffalo River Restoration
Buffalo River at sunset. Photo by Jill Jedlicka
The Buffalo River flows through Buffalo, New York, and into Lake Erie. The river played an important role in the development on the city of Buffalo. However, many decades of industrial, residential, municipal and other uses led to the accumulation of contaminants in river sediment. The Buffalo River Restoration Project is sponsored under the Great Lakes Legacy Act program by USEPA and on-federal sponsors including, Honeywell and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.
Habitat Restoration Enhances Ecology of the Buffalo River
Following the cleanup, the Restoration Partners will implement habitat restoration projects. These projects will help restore select areas of the river. Restoration projects include new and enhanced vegetation and installation of structures that will provide habitat for fish and other wildlife. This restoration will commence in spring/summer of 2015, extending through 2015 with monitoring.
Coordination with River Users
The Restoration Partners are working with river users to minimize disturbances. Please notify us if you are a river user, either commercial or recreational, so that we can coordinate schedules when possible. We also have speakers, a project mailing list and this website for continual updates.
Minimal Community Disruption
River users will continue to use the river. In any dredging project, the community may experience short-term inconveniences. For example, there will be large equipment in the river, such as dredge platforms, cranes and barges, operating 24 hours a day/six days a week. While river users can continue to use the river, it is essential that a safe distance from the dredging is maintained. Barges and all equipment will be lit at night.
Where to Find More Information?
This website has been developed to serve as a central resource for information about the Buffalo River.
A number of other websites with good information about the Buffalo River are also available. Links to these sites can be found in the right column of this page.
- Buffalo River Restoration - Feasibility Study
- Frequently Asked Questions about Restoring the Buffalo River
- YouTube Video - Revitalizing Local Waterfront Communities: The Great Lakes Legacy Act (see Links Leaving DEC's Website in the right hand column)
- USEPA has information on the Buffalo River AOC and the GLLA. (see Links Leaving DEC's Website in the right hand column)
- DEC's Region 9 Remediation Project Information page has information about individual brownfield cleanup sites along the river (Buffalo Color, ExxonMobil).
- Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper's website has an extensive database and includes all Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan documents. (see Links Leaving DEC's Website in the right hand column)
Receive Site Fact Sheets by Email
Elevated rail bridge crossing the Buffalo River
near Smith Street. Photo by Jill Jedlicka
Have site information sent right to your email inbox. DEC invites you to sign up with one or more contaminated sites county email listservs available. It's quick, it's free, and it will help keep you better informed. When you reach the topics page, scroll down to the "Environmental Site Permitting and Cleanup Information by County" section, and choose the counties of interest.
As a listserv member, you will periodically receive site-related information/announcements for all contaminated sites in the county(ies) you select. You may continue also to receive paper copies of site information for a time after you sign up with a county listserv, until the transition to electronic distribution is complete.
Who to Contact?
Executive Director & Riverkeeper
Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER
1250 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14213
Martin Doster, P.E
Regional Hazardous Waste Remediation Engineer
NYS DEC - Region 9
270 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203
Mary Beth Giancarlo
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Great Lakes National Program Office
77 W. Jackson Blvd. (G-17J)
Chicago, IL 60604