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For Release: Friday, May 14, 2021

DEC and U.S. EPA Announce Construction Underway in Niagara River Habitat Improvement Project

$2.2 Million Spicer Creek Wildlife Management Area Restoration Will Add Habitat and Protect Shoreline

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) today announced that work is underway on $2.2 million in habitat improvements at the Spicer Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA) on the Niagara River. The project will restore an additional 16 acres of habitat along the Grand Island shoreline and within the Niagara River Area of Concern, where state, federal, and local partners are working together to remedy decades of environmental contamination and ecosystem degradation.

"Returning native habitat to the Niagara River shoreline is vital to advancing restoration efforts along this important international waterway," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "This state-federal partnership will bolster local fish and wildlife habitat to nourish the river's shoreline and provide ecological dividends for generations to come."

"Thanks to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the collaborative efforts of the federal, state and local partners, we're making real progress in the Niagara River," said acting U.S. EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Cheryl Newton. "EPA is proud to be able to help clean up and restore this vital resource."

"The restoration and preservation of the world's largest system of fresh surface water is an ambitious and incredibly worthwhile effort," Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said. "We at OGS are proud of our role in this project and of the positive environmental benefits this collaboration among state and federal agencies will deliver."

Early maps of the Niagara River show extensive coastal wetlands, especially in protected embayments and shallow water areas around the islands and mouths of the region's tributaries. However, most of the coastal wetland plant communities that once fringed these shorelines have been degraded by industrialization, development, and pollution. Habitat restoration projects, like this one at Spicer Creek WMA, help reverse the historic pattern of habitat loss and degradation. Spicer Creek WMA is a 34-acre property managed by DEC and located along East River Road in the town of Grand Island in Erie County. The parcel includes rights to a portion of the Niagara Riverbed along 1,600 feet of its shoreline. The area consists of nearly 26 acres of wetland and approximately eight acres of brushland and woodland.

The project will place low-profile berms along the shoreline to deflect wave energy and promote the growth of shallow-water vegetation near the WMA's shoreline. Eighteen segmented rock structures, each about 71 feet long, will crest above the river. Log structures and single boulders will be installed to further deflect wave energy. The enclosure will still allow a flow of river water through the 16-acre protected work area. Approximately 3,760 linear feet of shoreline will be protected.

In addition, habitat enhancement will be advanced through the planting of native rooted vegetation and seed mixes to promote long-term naturalized growth. The structures being added will create a protected 'backwater area' that will be designed to keep the new habitat safe from boat wakes, ice scour, sediment, and other factors that can affect vegetation propagation. Contractors, managed by the New York State Office of General Services (OGS), will access the project area from the Niagara River, and there are no anticipated changes to the public use at the Spicer Creek WMA. The project is currently on schedule, with construction expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The Spicer Creek WMA project is part of a larger state and federal effort involving DEC, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, OGS, U.S. EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other partners to restore coastal wetlands where conditions, such as substrate, water depth, and protection from wind-driven wave exposure, are conducive to establishing a wetland. The project is being fully funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) (leaves DEC's website), which was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world. It provides additional resources to make progress toward the most critical long-term goals for this important ecosystem. GLRI resources have been used to fund thousands of projects (leaves DEC's website) to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitat and species, prevent and control invasive species, and address other environmental challenges in the Great Lakes.

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