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We thank the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for taking the time necessary to re-evaluate the short and long-term goals for the Outer Harbor. The resulting Phase 1 designs for the southern portion of the Outer Harbor demonstrate that ECHDC has incorporated and addressed the majority of the concerns and priorities raised by the community. Specifically, the proposed Phase 1 designs align with the priorities that BNW identified in October 2015. We are pleased at the recognition of the ecology of this unique lakefront location through the increased protections for the Bell Slip, Lake Erie shoreline, and sensitive upland habitats. We would like to continue the productive dialogue with ECHDC on long-term stewardship, management, and protection of the ecology and water quality of the Outer Harbor during the final stages of Phase 1 design and prior to construction.

We support shifting the focus away from permanent building development in the Phase 1 area, towards the activation of the site through diverse physical connections for people. The completion of the Greenway Nature Trail, creation of “adventure” mountain bike courses, the addition of overlooks, fishing access, opportunities for wildlife viewing, and other passive outdoor recreation are activities that are not mutually exclusive of one another, support shared use of waterfront space, and are reflective of community priorities. We do advise that limited seasonal restrictions on some of these activities may be needed to respect the ecology of the lakefront, and that continued ecological monitoring of all activities on these former brownfields is conducted.

Notably, the Special Use Permit application incorporates the November 2015 State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) Negative Declaration. The Proposed Action in the 2015 SEQR review incorporated design concepts and project proposals for the entire Outer Harbor, not just the Phase 1 area. We emphasize that Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s support expressed in this public statement is explicitly for the proposed Phase 1 designs for the southern portion of the Outer Harbor. We look forward to continuing our engagement with ECHDC, the City of Buffalo, and all other parties involved with the planning and design of the next phases and planning for the remainder of the Outer Harbor.

Sincerely,

Jill Jedlicka
Executive Director and Waterkeeper