Like all things Buffalo, 2022 saw a resurgence for water wins in WNY! Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper wrote and submitted 53 grants in 2022, and to date has secured a whopping $8,428,747 in funding with an additional $16,837,096 pending to protect and restore the waterways and surrounding ecosystems in our region. Here are some of the Waterkeeper projects that provided us with water wins in 2022:
Waterkeeper participated in or led over 184 outreach events and engaged over 7,114 people in direct conversations about our mission. We also overhauled our website to make it more user-friendly! Check it out at www.bnwaterkeeper.org.
Clean Ups By The Numbers
· Spring Sweep – 1482 volunteers, 19,665 lbs trash
· Great Lakes Cleanup – 4962 volunteers, 74152 lbs trash
· Scajaquada Sweep – 86 volunteers, 625 lbs trash
· Solo Sweeps – 82 Solo Sweeps, 1568 lbs trash
· We mobilized nearly 200 volunteers to help perform adaptive landscape management tasks at our existing restoration sites.
· We planted over 2,308 herbaceous plugs in establishing meadow and wetland areas.
· We planted approximately 514 trees/shrubs in riparian areas at Hyde Park and Ellicott Creek Park.
Waterkeeper has been working with our design team to develop a living shoreline design to address the severe erosion and bank failure occurring at the southern tip of Ellicott Island Bark Park. Our target of starting construction will be autumn, 2023.
Waterkeeper continues to work with our partners to accomplish adaptive landscape management & public access improvements throughout three habitat restoration areas within Forest Lawn Cemetery. The activities completed in 2022 included:
· invasive species management of approximately 3-acres of floodplain and upland meadow areas
· upland & wetland plant installation of approximately 2,441 plants
· meadow seeding & establishment of approximately 53,670sf of native meadow habitat
· the creation 350lf of trails
· the creation/installation of educational signage throughout the project areas
· Waterkeeper purchased 10 new kayaks to update our fleet.
Policy & Advocacy
• Waterkeeper advocated for strong drinking water protections to the NYSDOH.
• Waterkeeper collected surface water samples at 14 sites in our watershed to be analyzed for toxic PFAS chemicals, participating in a larger Waterkeeper Alliance Surface Water Study, the first of its kind. (https://bnwaterkeeper.org/pfas-pfoa-pfos/).
• We celebrated the first year of the Polystyrene Ban in New York State.
• We passed the Environmental Bond Act!
• Waterkeeper provided hands on educational experiences at Explore & More Children’s Museum.
• We implemented our Buffalo Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) after a 2-year hiatus.
• Waterkeeper continued our Young Environmental Leaders Program (YELP) in partnership with Niagara Falls HS and Niagara Wheatfield HS reaching 34 students
• We engaged 10 teachers in a Niagara River/Lake Erie Watershed focused Teacher Academy in partnership with Reinstein Woods.
• Waterkeeper collected over 3,200 plastic nurdles from waterway shorelines, submitting this data to the large Nurdle Patrol Citizen Science project.
• We collected bacteria data at 15 sites in the Niagara River Watershed. We reported E. coli exceedances out to the public using social media and uploaded data to our interactive water quality map – https://bnwaterkeeper.org/our-impact/water-quality/
• Waterkeeper responded to community reports of potential Harmful Algal Blooms and identified type of algae to determine level of risk and need for community safety information.
• We trained 30 volunteers to use high tech water quality probes to collect baseline water quality data on a monthly basis to help us to track waterway trends.
Forest Lawn on Scajaquada Creek
Waterkeeper continues to work with our partners to accomplish adaptive landscape management and public access improvements throughout three habitat restoration areas within Forest Lawn Cemetery. The activities completed in 2022 included:
· Invasive species management of approximately 3-acres of floodplain and upland meadow areas
· Upland and wetland plant installation of approximately 2,441 plants
· Meadow seeding and establishment of approximately 53,670sf of native meadow habitat
· The creation 350lf of trails
· The creation/installation of educational signage throughout the project areas
Ellicott Island Bark Park / Tonawanda Creek
Waterkeeper continues to work with our design team to develop a living shoreline design to address the severe erosion and bank failure occurring at the southern tip of Ellicott Island Bark Park. Designs have passed the 60% phase and we anticipate starting construction in Fall 2023.
Waterkeeper completed the Cayuga Creek Stream & Floodplain Restoration Project, which was over 10 years in the making. This project mitigates flooding for community members downstream of the project area, improves the health of Cayuga Creek, and restores critical fish and wildlife habitat. Project accomplishments included: creating 1,750 linear feet of new stream channel to reconnect the creek to its historic floodplain and improve flood storage; restored over 11 acres of forested wetland habitat; planted over 8,600 trees, shrubs, wetland plugs, and live stakes. Combined, the improvements are projected to capture over 2.5 million gallons of runoff each year.
In partnership with the Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust, a conservation easement was applied across 25 acres of land where the Cayuga Creek Stream & Floodplain Restoration took place and acquired an additional 11 acres of significant forested wetland habitat, achieving permanent protection of 36 acres of important natural land along the Cayuga Creek corridor.
North Tonawanda Botanical Gardens
Waterkeeper worked with the North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Organization to grow over 500 native plants. Students from the North Tonawanda Middle School worked to install these plants in the North Tonawanda Botanical Garden Living Shoreline site to enhance plant establishment.
We secured two grants to complete planning and implementation of improvements along the Gill Creek corridor to develop a strategy for restoration and make meaningful progress towards addressing stormwater inputs in an area where Harmful Algae Blooms have been found since 2017.
West Seneca Flood Reduction Project
Waterkeeper worked with Ramboll Engineering to determine the feasibility of reconnecting a floodplain in the Town of West Seneca to alleviate flooding in the adjacent Lexington Green neighborhood. Results from the data analysis and modeling show that installation of a floodplain bench would provide significant relief from flooding during ice jam events. Waterkeeper is working closely with the Town of West Seneca and community members to develop preliminary design plans which will lead to construction in 2024.
Ralph Wilson Park
Waterkeeper wrote four grants on behalf of the project team to fund shoreline restoration, public waterway access, and upland native tree plantings as components of the improvements that will take place at the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Centennial Park. Our efforts have secured an additional $6.75 million dollars with another $10 million pending to ensure coastal resiliency, public access, and habitat creation are a main focus of this park rehabilitation project.
As part of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Buffalo Blueway, the Red Jacket Park grand re-opening was held in June 2022 and marks the completion of the fifth Buffalo Blueway site. The project added an enhanced paddle sport launch, benches, ADA accessible walkways, a redesigned overlook with sweeping views of the Buffalo River, and an upgraded parking lot.
Also through the Buffalo Blueway, three additional sites are in the design and implementation phase: Higgins Park, which will receive improved shoreline habitat and a graded ingress along the shoreline; at both South Buffalo Charter School and NYS DEC Harlem Road Boat Launch invasive species management work continues with anticipated final design and construction in 2023.
Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan
· Management Action’s for the Buffalo River have been completed .
· Restrictions on Dredging BUI were removed in late September 2022.
· Buffalo River Team was invited to speak at the International Great Lakes Forum to discuss our successes of the restoration and public outreach thus far.
During 2022, Waterkeeper made significant progress in securing two headwaters’ parcels for permanent protection through the NYS DEC Water Quality Improvement Program. Both parcels contain tributaries of Eighteenmile Creek, a priority source water protection watershed. It is anticipated that both parcels will be formally acquired in 2023.
We continued to build out the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Source Water Protection Program through partnership building, seeking funding for future program support, and the advancement of an ecosystems benefit analysis as a resource for natural resource protection in the headwaters of the Niagara River watershed.
This Waterkeeper project removed a culvert that blocked upstream movement for native brook trout, preventing them from accessing important spawning habitat in the headwaters of the Tonawanda Creek watershed. Through this project, 3.7 miles of stream were re-opened to native brook trout through the installation of a new, larger culvert, and habitat improvements were completed along 1.5 miles of stream.