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(Image courtesy of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.)
(Image courtesy of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp.)

Buffalo: ECHDC board approves partnership to restore aquatic ecosystem on Outer Harbor

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Tue, Mar 23rd 2021 03:15 pm

Project with US Army Corps of Engineers will improve slip 3

See renderings here

The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. board of directors met Monday and authorized ECHDC to enter into a project partnership with the U.S. Department of the Army/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for architectural and engineering design services at slip No. 3 on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

A press release stated, “The project will help to renew elements of the harbor’s aquatic ecosystem crucial to plant and animal life that have been lost or degraded in the region and help protect the area from future storm damage. Slip 3, located between Wilkeson Pointe and the Michigan Pier, was originally constructed to facilitate commercial shipping related to industrial manufacturing, although it is no longer used for that purpose.”

“As a city on the water, it is imperative that we restore and protect a healthy aquatic ecosystem,” ECHDC Chairman Robert Gioia said. “On Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, we are proud to partner with the Army Corps of Engineers on a project that will provide for a more productive, self-sustaining wetland and aquatic community for water-dependent wildlife.”

The project will include:

√ Construction of an angled rubble mound breakwater structure with a weir opening at the mouth of slip No. 3 to contain placed dredged material and reduce the impact of waves from the adjacent Buffalo Outer Harbor.

√ Placement of approximately 285,000 cubic yards of dredged material within slip No. 3 to raise the existing bottom contours to a range of -2 feet low water datum (LWD) to +3.5 feet LWD. Dredge cycles of the Buffalo River occur every two years, with the first scheduled in 2023.

√ Installation of habitat features to include gravel beds, rock piles, root wads, logs, and the preservation of existing used dock piles to provide maximum habitat complexity and structure to encourage the use of slip No. 3 as spawning/nursing habitat by multiple fish species.

√ Planting of native species of submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation that have the ability to compete with invasive species and provide high-quality aquatic habitat for both aquatic species and migratory/resident bird species.

As a non-federal sponsor, ECHDC is required to provide not less than 35% of the total project budget. The ECHDC board action approved ECHDC’s portion of the project’s design costs in an amount not to exceed $451,150. Further action will be needed by the ECHDC board to approve ECHDC’s portion of the construction costs once a final design and a construction budget are determined.

Based on the current USACE construction budget, the ECHDC total commitment over the course of the project will be $4,972,000 over a 12-year period. The funding is from the New York Power Authority, through relicensing agreements tied to the operation of the Niagara Power Project.

The ECHDC board also approved the corporation’s $1,297,489 operating and $64,999,606 capital budgets for fiscal year 2021-22. The capital budget includes but is not limited to: acquisition costs; design costs of several Canalside and Outer Harbor capital projects; legal costs; property management and maintenance costs; certain construction costs, including Outer Harbor phase 1 projects; and ECHDC’s funding contribution to Heritage Point and the North Aud Block.

Congressman Brian Higgins welcomed the announcement.

He said, “Our waterfront is only a destination when the water itself is healthy and thriving. This project improves fishing along this stretch, enhancing recreation and tourism opportunities and building on the other unique ecological treasures – Times Beach and Tifft Nature Preserve – along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.”

Higgins helped secure the NYPA relicensing settlement.

Dredging of the Buffalo River takes place every other year under the oversight of the U.S. Army Corps Buffalo District. This project would place clean, dredged material into the slip adjacent to Wilkeson Point creating an environment that better supports a healthy habitat for fish and wildlife.

Last November, ECHDC approved a general project plan for Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, which included $44.3 million in investments over the next five years.

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor has already seen in excess of $120 million in improvements in the past decade, including: transformation of Fuhrmann Boulevard into the Outer Harbor Parkway, the creation of Buffalo Harbor State Park, and numerous enhanced destination points at Gallagher Beach, Times Beach, Tifft Street and Lake Kirsty Piers and the historic Buffalo Lighthouse.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers fact sheet on the project is available here: https://higgins.house.gov/sites/higgins.house.gov/files/Buffalo%20River%20RSM%20-%20Outer%20Harbor.pdf.

As a subsidiary of Empire State Development, the state’s chief economic development agency, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. supports and promotes the creation of infrastructure and public activities at Canalside, the Ohio Street corridor and the Outer Harbor. For more information on ECHDC, visit here.

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