ECHDC Approves Partnership with Army Corps to Create New Wetland Ecosystem in Buffalo Outer Harbor

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(Courtesy of Empire State Development)

Mon 13 Dec 2021 12:40 pm

The board of directors of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. (ECHDC) met and approved several items, including the authorization of ECHDC to enter into a Project Partnership Agreement (PPA) with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District, for the creation of a new wetland ecosystem in the Buffalo Outer Harbor.

The project will address the severe degradation of coastal wetlands in the Niagara River system and the Great Lakes through industrial development, leading to hardening of shorelines and a decrease in nurseries and spawning habitats. The project, estimated at approximately $ 14.8 million, will use dredged material from the Buffalo River to create new wetland habitat for fish and wildlife in abandoned Navigation Hold 3 adjacent to Wilkeson Pointe.

See the renderings here.

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

Lt. Col. Eli Adams, USACE Buffalo District Commander, said: “Placement close to shore to restore habitat is one of the most promising options for beneficial use of US dredged material. Army Corps of Engineers. Collaboration with our partners in New York State continues to help the District of Buffalo identify innovative solutions and set the standard for restoring Great Lakes ecosystems.

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Wilkeson Pointe has created a recreational destination that embraces the natural surroundings. “This project builds on the success of this site by enhancing the natural habitat in the adjacent water. I congratulate the Army Corps Buffalo District and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. for their partnership on this project. It’s yet another example of how the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative investment and New York Power Authority license renewal regulations continue to transform the Buffalo waterfront.

Approximately 285,000 cubic meters of sediment collected from the Buffalo River over a six-year period (approximately three dredging cycles) will be used to create 6.7 acres of coastal wetland habitat in Slide 3 – which was identified by a multi-agency committee as a habitat management opportunity in the Niagara River Area of ​​Concern. Sediments intended for use are certified clean by state and federal standards.

The habitat will also include existing gravel beds, rock piles, rootballs, logs and dock piles to provide maximum habitat complexity and structure. The native species plantation will include submerged and emergent aquatic vegetation that can protect against invasive species and provide high quality aquatic habitat for aquatic species and migratory / resident bird species.

The authorization of the ECHDC board of directors for the PPA allows USACE to begin the design and specification phase of this project. USACE plans to award a contract in the summer of 2022 for the construction of a stone breakwater at the mouth of Slip 3, which will conserve dredged material and protect wetland habitat.

The project is cost-shared at 65% with the federal (USACE) and 35% with the non-federal (ECHDC). The ECHDC Board of Directors has already approved ECHDC’s share of the project design costs for an amount not exceeding $ 451,150. The ECHDC Board of Directors will need to take further steps to approve the part of the ECHDC construction costs once the final design and construction budget is determined. The amount of funding from ECHDC should not exceed $ 4.52 million over a 10-year period. Funding comes from the New York Power Authority, through license renewal agreements related to the operation of the Niagara Power Project.

The feasibility study for this project was funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. GLRI funding has also been secured to complete the design and specifications.

The ECHDC board of directors also approved:

• Adoption of the amended general project plan for the Canal Edge Land Use Improvement Project which better identifies the achievements, works in progress and what remains in future phases. The changes include the North Aud Block development plan, the opening of the Carousel Rotunda, revisions to Canalside’s design guidelines, updating the overall project investment, sources and operating budget. and maintenance, and the clarification of land ownership. The overall investment in Canalside has grown from nearly $ 295 million, expected in 2009, to a current estimate of $ 708 million. The original PPM provided for nearly $ 141 million in private development, or a rate of return of 1: 1.3 on public investment of $ 109 million. The current MGPP provides for more than $ 570 million in private development, or a rate of return of 1: 4.2 on public investment of nearly $ 137 million.

• Authorization to modify the management agreement with Be Our Guest Ltd. for Canalside operations to extend the duration for years six and seven. The BRG team will continue to be responsible for operations and maintenance, scheduling and management of events, marketing and sponsorship , food and beverage management and financial management of Canalside. The modification of the management agreement with BRG to complete the scope of work will not exceed $ 2.5 million, while the total contract amount will not exceed $ 9.9 million.

• Approval of the list of prequalified consultants in real estate development and planning.

For more information on ECHDC, visit https://esd.ny.gov/erie-canal-harbor-development-corporation-0.

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