The New York Power Authority has received an award from the National Hydropower Association for habitat restoration on a small but ecologically important island on the Niagara River in the Town of Grand Island.
The NHA's Outstanding Steward of America's Waters award for the project on Frog Island also recognized NYPA's Steve Schoenwiesner, project manager for the $4.1 million collaborative wetland restoration project, which was made possible through the 2007 relicensing agreement associated with the Power Authority's Niagara Power Project in Lewiston.
"Earning its sixth OSAW award makes NYPA the most decorated OSAW recipient in the program's history," NHA Executive Director Linda Church Ciocci said. "The rehabilitation of the wetlands associated with the Niagara project is just another example of NYPA's continuing dedication to hydropower's environmental sustainability."
The NHA recognizes deserving organizations in the hydropower industry annually for projects that exhibit exemplary operational, educational, historical, recreational or environmental enhancement and stewardship.
At the beginning of this project in 2013, the once-productive Frog Island had been reduced to a partially submerged and hardly visible landmass due to erosion and other manmade factors. Working in close collaboration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, environmental groups and other stakeholders, NYPA restored two acres of lost fish and wildlife habitat, significantly enhancing the area's biodiversity and ecosystems.
"We are pleased to be recognized for this restoration work," said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. "We take the environmental stewardship of our host communities very seriously and we are happy to have had a hand in restoring all of these areas to their natural glory for the benefit of future generations."
The restoration involved many challenges, including the excavation of sediment from the river bottom and the placement of nearly 16,000 cubic yards of stone, gravel and sand, all within a fast-moving current and quickly changeable river conditions.
Grade changes were made to achieve the elevations that allow for a wetland configuration where shallow open water and marsh are interspersed with diverse vegetation and topography amid frequently changing water levels. Native plants were then selected that could both thrive in the new water depths and ensure the right ecological balance to achieve sustainability and a healthy proliferation of wetland and shoreline vegetation. The restored wetland was reconnected to the Niagara River and is designed to attract multiple species of fish and wildlife.
NYPA has received numerous awards from the NHA for its habitat improvement and recreational enhancement projects connected to the relicensing of both its Niagara Power Project and the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project in Massena, including Little Beaver Island in Grand Island, Common Tern Nesting in Buffalo Harbor, the Niagara River Gorge Stone Stairway in Niagara Falls, the Upstream Eel Passage Facility in Massena, the Sturgeon Spawning Beds near Waddington, and town recreational facilities in St. Lawrence County.