Investment continues Great Lakes cleanup in Erie County supported by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Congressman Brian Higgins announced Erie County will receive $2,522,950 to support continued efforts to restore and revitalize the Buffalo River. The funding, awarded under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will build on work transforming Western New York waterways.
“For years, the Buffalo River, once a scenic gem of our Western New York waterways, has been plagued by pollution; but thanks to the work of dedicated community leaders and the historic funding in the ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Law,’ we championed, we are turning the tide on this trend. I’m proud to help deliver this vital $2.5-plus million in funding to restore critical habitat for wildlife in the Buffalo River,” Schumer said. “This major investment will not only help clean up our waterways and restore wildlife habitat, it will also boost Buffalo, protect our environment and combat the impacts of climate change. Investing in the Buffalo River means investing in the future of Western New York, and I will continue fighting to ensure future generations can fully enjoy the natural beauty of Western New York’s waterways.”
“The Buffalo River was once so polluted it was set ablaze,” Higgins said. “Thanks to years of work by community stewards and millions of dollars of federal investments, today the Buffalo River is a destination for recreation, residential living and private sector investment. This grant continues the progress we are making revitalizing Buffalo’s waterfront and waterways.”
The Buffalo River was one of 43 locations within the Great Lakes region identified in the 1980s as an “Area of Concern.” In recent decades, federal investments have been made to address industrial contamination and restore habitat and water quality.
A press release noted, “Schumer and Higgins supported a doubling of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding through increased annual budget allocations to the program combined with a $1 billion GLRI commitment under the ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.’ Altogether, this will deliver $3.125 billion toward Great Lakes restoration projects between 2022-26. This investment will ultimately expedite the delisting of the Buffalo River and other sites as ‘Areas of Concern.’ ”
Erie County will use the grant to support Buffalo River “Area of Concern” project management; river sediment, habitat and wildlife restoration; and related public outreach.
Higgins’ team said, “For over 20 years, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has served as the Buffalo River remedial advisory committee coordinator, delivering Great Lakes restoration projects that have been the catalyst for over $400 million in new economic activity in and around the Buffalo River. With this award, Erie County will also contract with Waterkeeper to continue its successful leadership role as AOC Coordinator.”
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka said, "We are grateful to Sen. Schumer and Congressman Higgins for their unwavering support of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and our community through the GLRI and the ‘Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.’ The continued financial support provided by the USEPA to Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper and our regional partners has proven that a nonprofit organization can play a significant leadership role in the restoration, coordination and implementation of a globally recognized river restoration effort. Erie County has been an excellent partner to work with to protect and steward the $100 million in restoration efforts in the Buffalo River AOC.”