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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 (NY-26) 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 (EPA), will build on work transforming Western New York waterways.

“For years the Buffalo River, once a scenic gem of our Western NY waterways has been plagued by pollution, but thanks to the work of dedicated community leaders and the historic funding in the bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law we championed, we are turning the tide on this trend. I’m proud to help deliver this vital $2.5+ million in funding to restore critical habitat for wildlife in the Buffalo River,” said Senator Schumer. “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 NY’s waterways.”

“The Buffalo River was once so polluted it was set ablaze,” said Congressman Higgins. “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. 

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 2022-2026. 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.

“Our blue economy is a key component of the overall health of Erie County and the Buffalo River is a big part of that. As the river has recovered from its polluted past it has become a popular site for recreation and relaxation, as well as increased business investment,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.  “In Erie County everyone like to get near the water, and this grant will continue the decades-long effort to clean this waterway and make it better for future generations. I thank Majority Leader Schumer and Congressman Higgins for their work in securing it.”

For over twenty 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 Senator 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 non-profit 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.”