BNW looking to fix flooding issues, implement wetland restoration project
By David Yarger
Thursday morning, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka and Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace announced the acquisition and restoration of 30 acres along Cayuga Creek in the town.
For more than three years, Wallace has spent time looking for ways to reduce flooding issues in areas around Tuscarora Road and Roberts Drive - better known in the town as the Weber Property, donated by Joseph C. Weber Inc.
Wallace was pleased to see his efforts come to fruition and he gave heavy praise to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, as well as the Niagara County Department of Economic Development, New York Power Authority, the Host Community Greenway Fund Standing Committee, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"It's a great day," Wallace said. "It's probably one of my greatest accomplishments so far in office. ... We have been working on a number of things since I took office and they take a while. ... There are a lot of steps that we had to go through - the assessment, phase one and phase two environmental study - that took almost a year and these things don't happen overnight.
"People get frustrated ... I had somebody tell somebody early this spring, 'They'll never do anything,' because we had a bad flood in the spring. I just bit my tongue and said, 'Well, wait and see.' So it's a great feeling to know that it's come together, a lot of people (were) involved in this, everybody was so positive ... it was seamless. I don't think there were any setbacks."
The process did take some time, as BNW spent a few years assessing the site's potential and searching for funding, which came from several sources, including the NYPA, HCGFSC, and the U.S. EPA.
NYPA President and CEO Gil Quiniones, in a press release said, "Gov. Cuomo has given the highest importance to the care and improvement of New York's waterways. The New York Power Authority, under his leadership, is proud to support this restoration project along the Cayuga Creek corridor in the Town of Niagara. NYPA is pleased to see these grant funds making a difference for the betterment of our community."
At the announcement, Jedlicka said, "Today marks an important milestone for the future health of Cayuga Creek and the quality of life for residents in the surrounding community."
In addition to the project design, Jedlicka said BNW will restore a portion of the original creek channel, reconnect it to the flood plain and provide flood relief to the surrounding community. She said BNW will implement public access to the restored site, enabling outdoor activity and recreation, an outdoor classroom, and environmental education opportunities for the community.
Wallace said the restoration is now in the design phase, which will take around eight to 10 months, then, the project will enter the construction phase, which will take around two years.
"People will see that empty promises will be fulfilled," Wallace said.
Greg Stevens, executive director of the Niagara River Greenway Commission said, "The next chapter of the Greenway is going to be focused more on the quality of the greenspaces along our waterways ... and this is an outstanding example of the kinds of projects we hope to see coming forward in the future."
In a release from BNW describing the wetland habitat of Cayuga Creek, it said, "It is home to abundant plant and animal life, including the Shellbark Hickory - a threatened species in New York state. Over many decades, a combination of water pollution, surrounding land use, and creek channel alterations have left the creek's water quality and habitat in an impaired state, and the surrounding community with persistent flooding issues."
BNW said they'll be looking for community engagement and public meetings in the Town of Niagara will be held later this summer and fall.
For more information on the restoration, visit www.bnwaterkeeper.org/cayuga-creek.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka (Photo by David Yarger)
An area of the Cayuga Creek restoration project