Blue Economy Initiative

Our water defined our region’s history, and it will define our future.  Therefore, it is Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s mission to protect water quality and quantity while connecting people to water.

Western New York lies at the heart of the Great Lakes, and is an ideal community to advance a “blue economy”.  Our water resources support recreation, eco-tourism, fish and wildlife, manufacturing, waste processing, power generation, trans-shipment, and drinking water.

The Buffalo Niagara region is at a critical moment in time.  Our community is poised to become a globally relevant case study by creating economic revitalization through the restoration of the health and integrity of its fresh water system.  This model is what Waterkeeper refers to as our “Blue Economy”.

Clean water is a vital asset and one of which the value will increase as global climates change. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has worked for 20 years to restore and revitalize our fresh water. With other partners, it is therefore ready to lead the surge into a “blue economy,” based on this invaluable natural asset.

We’ve turned the corner. The massive clean up of the Buffalo River, once among the most polluted rivers in the country, is now a national success story. Waterkeeper’s vision, restoration efforts, and advocacy have established a foundation for the transformation and economic development now happening along our region’s waterfront.

Waterkeeper is launching a major initiative with our Blue Economy model—one we believe will elevate the community’s passion and investment in this region’s most important natural asset, our fresh water. Public support and awareness is a critical component to securing societal investment in solutions for our most pressing problems, including invasive species infestation, climate change, water quality, and public access to healthy, clean water.

The Buffalo News recently did an interview with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Executive Director, Jill Jedlicka on our Blue Economy

As part of this initiative, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper worked with Anna Scime to produce a video capturing the essence of what is being accomplished locally to realize the vision for a Blue Economy:  New Beginnings for a Blue Economy

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has repeatedly proven itself capable of being an effective advocate for revitalization of this region. Over the last five years, Waterkeeper has utilized $7 million in investments from the community to leverage over $250 million in financial commitments for our partners to revitalize and increase access to our waterways. These resources contribute to new jobs and new work for a variety of large and small businesses, community groups and nonprofits throughout the region.

  • Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper was the first nonprofit organization in the country to be given the mandate and authority to coordinate the Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan (RAP).  Leveraging a $1.3 million investment by the USEPA, our environmental planners secured $72 million for Buffalo River sediment clean up, habitat restoration, improved public access for recreational activities, and greenway planning for sustainable economic development over ten years. This has opened the door and laid the foundation for positive revitalization of the Ohio Street Corridor including Canal Side, Riverbend, the Outer Harbor, and Silo City.
  • Our urban planners utilized a $60,000 investment from local foundations to develop a “green infrastructure solutions report” addressing the largest ongoing source of pollution in our waterways— untreated sewage and storm water. This resulted in a commitment from the Buffalo Sewer Authority to partner in green infrastructure solutions, like rain gardens and porous pavement. These solutions not only address the sewer overflow problem, but also help revitalize and improve the aesthetics of our local neighborhoods.
  • Over the last five years, we have brought thousands of people to the water to enjoy it on new bike paths, in kayaks and boats, on guided nature walks to unexpectedly pristine places, and to help us keep the garbage out through spring and fall clean up events.

Because of Waterkeeper’s work, the public can now see and experience the positive change taking place throughout the region, including introducing rain gardens and barrels in urban neighborhoods to curb sewage run off during storms, building new greenway trails linking Buffalo Niagara watershed, and providing access for tens of thousands of people to bike, hike and kayak, development of new green spaces like Riverfest Park, and revitalizing the inner harbor showcased by Canal Side.

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is working towards Five Guiding Principles for sustaining Western New York’s Blue Economy:

Guiding Principle #1: Restoration and protection of our water systems is a driver of regional economic revitalization through the establishment of a sustainable  jobs market.

Guiding Principle #2:  Increased public accessibility to the water and preservation of open space is a design priority for waterfront revitalization.

Guiding Principle #3: Green infrastructure solutions are a major component in the restoration of our sewer systems, watershed habitats and greenways.

Guiding Principle #4: Implementation of the Niagara River Greenway will be a catalyst for economic development and community vitality.

Guiding Principle #5: Public, private and non-profit partnerships and collaborations will leverage diverse resources and community engagement.