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Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka joined Congressman Brian Higgins at a press conference on Friday. (Submitted)
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka joined Congressman Brian Higgins at a press conference on Friday. (Submitted)

Higgins: $480,000 for Lake Erie protection programs led by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper


Fri, May 19th 2023 05:35 pm

Funding, secured by Higgins in federal budget, will support programs engaging community in assessment of shoreline & water quality

Congressman Brian Higgins on Friday announced $480,000 in federal funding for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to engage the Western New York community in the expansion of waterway monitoring and protection in the eastern basin of Lake Erie.

His team said, “The funding, which was secured by Higgins in the federal budget, will further opportunities for the public, including volunteers and underrepresented students, to play a role in clean water stewardship.”

Higgins explained, “We’ve made progress in improving Western New York waterways, but protection of clean water is an ongoing public responsibility. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is recognized nationally for its leadership and, with this funding, we can further engage residents as partners in supporting waterways and shorelines that are healthy, protected, resilient and contributing to a vibrant community.”

Executive Director Jill Jedlicka said, “For over 30 years, the Western New York community has looked to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to help translate technical information about our water resources, and inform both the public and elected leaders of the historic and emerging threats to water quality and ecosystems in our region. Congressman Higgins has been a defender and champion of our Great Lakes waterways since Waterkeeper’s beginnings, and we are grateful that his commitment has continued through his hard work in securing dedicated funding for our waters and our community. It is Waterkeeper’s intention to utilize these resources to expand our scientific knowledge on the continuing water quality impairments, and to turn that expertise into action to restore the health and resiliency of our Great Lakes community.”

The three-year effort, funded by Higgins through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will be guided by four main objectives:

•Enhance Regional Water Education Programs: Working in conjunction with the Buffalo Public School system, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper will expand its ambassador and Young Environmental Leaders (YELP) programs offering students paid STEM-based mentorship opportunities, while earning State University of New York (SUNY) credit, and growing community engagement and awareness about water quality.

•Expand Regional Water Quality and Ecosystem Monitoring Programs: Waterkeeper will deploy trained citizen science volunteers working under the Riverwatch program to gather and report water quality data in the Niagara River watershed. Monitoring includes sites commonly used for recreation, even those that aren’t official swimming beaches. The samplings and findings will be publicly reported through an interactive map on the Waterkeeper website and Swim Guide. Among the concerns to be tracked are E. coli and harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are a continuing problem in Lake Erie and can be harmful to humans and animals.

•Conduct Lake Erie Coastal Resiliency Visual Shoreline Assessments: Lake Erie and Niagara River water levels have risen to record levels and climate change could further exacerbate future flooding leading to shoreline erosion, property loss, and infrastructure damage. Currently, data does not exist to evaluate at-risk assets or to properly prepare for extreme weather scenarios. Waterkeeper will synthesize existing data, develop an assessment of current shoreline conditions, install and monitor stream gauges at major tributaries, and gather information from stakeholders and waterfront landowners.

•Advance Scientific Knowledge of the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie in Western New York: Through the work of a technical advisory committee and students, data will be gathered on how seiche events compromise shoreline resiliency and combined sewer overflows contribute to E. coli contamination, as well as how Western New York’s current and historical industrial landscape contributes to legacy and emerging contaminants.

The press release added, “Both Higgins and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper have a decades-long record of supporting and advancing clean water initiatives. In addition to this funding, secured by Higgins, Congress, through the ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’ and annual appropriations, has committed $3.125 billion over five years for the Great Lakes, which will expedite the cleanup of the Buffalo River, Niagara River and Eighteen Mile Creek.”

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