Buffalo River Restoration Project
Final Feasibility Study on Buffalo River
Phase I Dredging Commences
Watch a clip about the Buffalo River Remediation Project on DEC TV.
Elevated rail bridge crossing the Buffalo River
near Smith Street. Photo by Jill Jedlicka
A unique public-private-non-profit partnership including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper® and Honeywell is moving forward with plans to address a number of environmental problems affecting the Buffalo River. The environmental challenges include contaminated river sediments, poor water quality, a lack of safe public access, and insufficient fish and wildlife habitat. This partnership brings 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.
The second project, to be implemented with the oversight of the USEPA, would address 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.
Feasibility Study on Remediating Contaminated Sediments Released
The Feasibility Study (FS) for the Buffalo River has been completed. The report evaluated five options, known as 'alternatives,' for remediating contaminated sediments in the AOC. The FS recommends an alternative, the "Enhanced Protectiveness Dredging," which would include targeted removal and isolated capping of contaminated sediments as well as include habitat restoration.
|Full Document||Document Portions for Quicker Download|
|Final Buffalo River Feasibility Study (PDF)
(195 Page, 9.74 MB)
|Final Buffalo River FS Appendices A-E (PDF)
(176 Page, 6.31 MB)
|Final Buffalo River FS Appendix F: Ecology Engineering Evaluation Report
(PDF) (99 Page, 14.18 MB)
Summary of the Feasibility Study
The FS identifies and evaluates dredging, capping, and restoration technologies that would address contamination within the Buffalo River AOC. The FS also identifies the contaminants found in the AOC and the alternatives that most cost-effectively would address the potential ecological or human health risks associated with contaminated sediments. Details about the five alternatives that were evaluated, which ranged from "no action" to dredging and capping, are found in the FS.
Multiple contaminants of concern exist in the Buffalo River sediments, including but not limited to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), lead (Pb), and mercury (Hg). In general, the highest concentrations are located in the subsurface sediments from River Mile 3.5 to 5.5 and in the City Ship Canal.
The FS develops potential remedial alternatives that would protect human health and the environment and also be cost effective. The alternatives have been evaluated based on their potential to accomplish four objectives:
- Reduce exposure to humans and wildlife from direct sediment contact or through fish consumption by reducing the availability and/or concentration of contaminants in the sediment;
- Reduce exposure of wildlife and aquatic communities to harmful concentrations of contaminants;
- Reduce the potential for confined disposal of future dredged sediments (for routine navigational, commercial, and recreational purposes) by reducing contamination; and
- Implement a remedy that is compatible with the Buffalo River Remedial Advisory Committee's goal of protecting and restoring habitat and supporting wildlife.
The Preferred Alternative "Enhanced Protectiveness Dredging" is recommended because it effectively and efficiently achieves the objectives outlined above by dredging in areas that currently do not meet the objectives. Monitoring would be done both during and after dredging to determine the remedy's effectiveness and to ensure adequate protection of ecological and human health.
The Preferred Alternative also includes capping at the end of City Ship Canal to create a viable area for habitat. In addition to this habitat rehabilitation project, five additional areas along the river have been identified for restoration and improvement of habitat.
This preferred remedy would protect human health in areas frequently accessed by the public, where the river's velocity could move bottom sediments, and/or where sediments have been historically disturbed by ship traffic.
How Can I Obtain 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.
- The USEPA has information on the Buffalo River AOC and the GLLA.
- The USACE provides a web page with information on dredging the Buffalo River's federal navigation channel.
- 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.
To receive information on the Buffalo River by e-mail, sign up for DEC's Contaminated Sites listserv by entering your email in the GovDelivery system . 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.
Who Should I Contact If I Have Questions about the Buffalo River?
Director of Ecological Programs and Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan Coordinator
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