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In The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, The Senators Secured An Unprecedented $1 Billion For the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Now Those $$$ Are Flowing To Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper To Help Protect WNY’s Great Lakes Communities

Funding Is A Part Of A $35 Million Investment For Environmental Justice Projects Across the Great Lakes Announced Yesterday By The Biden Administration

Schumer, Gillibrand: Fed $$$ Flowing To WNY Will Help Preserve Our Beautiful Waterways For Years To Come

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced $5,633,581 through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes Environmental Justice Grant Program to develop and implement the Western New York Environmental Justice Grant Program for underserved communities in Lake Erie and Niagara River’s watershed. This investment is made possible from the historic funding in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Senators Schumer and Gillibrand championed and which included $1 billion – the largest ever single investment in the GLRI – to filter new life into the waterways of Western NY.

“Lake Erie and the Niagara River are the heart and soul Western NY’s waterways, but the impacts of climate change and decades of environmental degradation left a legacy that must be cleaned up to restore the ecosystem and support communities that live along these shores. I am proud that over $5.6 million from our Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law will now flow to the Buffalo-Niagara Waterkeeper to help turn the tide and deliver for our environmental justice communities in Western NY and make our waters cleaner for the next generation,” said Senator Schumer. “Investing in this watershed means investing in the longevity of Western New York, and I will always fight to ensure our beautiful waterways have the resources needed to thrive and serve our communities for years to come.”

“The Niagara River/Lake Erie watershed is home to thousands of Western New York residents, and it’s vital that these waterways are clean for generations to come,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This historic $5.6+ million for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper will help advance environmental justice goals in underserved communities in Western New York and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. I’m proud to have fought to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is making this investment possible and will continue to work to secure federal funds for New York’s underserved communities.”

“Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has spent decades mobilizing our community and advocating for our local environment in order to correct mistakes and clean up after generations of poor decisions,” said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director. “Western New York is home to numerous underserved communities who are faced with a disproportionate burden of environmental stressors and injustices, and it is the primary goal of this project to empower local communities and increase their capacity to implement solutions. We are grateful for Senator Schumer's decades of leadership and unwavering support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, enhanced with support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, that will provide an innovative funding mechanism for tackling our nation's environmental justice challenges. With USEPA’s unique vision and support, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s leadership team and our partners will break down barriers that will allow us to dedicate federal dollars towards local projects in the communities that need it the most, while simultaneously creating a model for sustainable funding and collaboration into the future.” 

Schumer and Gillibrand said the funding will enable Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to develop and implement a new program called the Western New York Environmental Justice Grant Program for underserved communities in Lake Erie and Niagara River’s watershed. Specifically, the funding will directly support community stakeholders to help identify barriers in securing federal funding, identify the environmental restoration needs of local disadvantaged communities, and provide the technical and administrative training and support needed for applicants to successfully implement projects that restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. These projects will spur environmental restoration efforts within disadvantaged Lake Erie communities and allow Great Lakes communities to more easily access Federal funding. The senators said with this funding, the region will be able to prepare for future climate hazards, protecting residents’ critical infrastructure, combating the impact of climate change, and boosting the quality -of-life for residents.

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper will partner with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance (LEWPA) to build community capacity within disadvantaged Lake Erie and Niagara River watershed communities and accelerate the pace of ecosystem restoration within Western New York.

The Great Lakes Environmental Justice Grant Program enables selectees to oversee their own subgrant competition that will fund environmental protection and restoration projects that safeguard our Nation’s largest fresh surface water resources and benefit underserved and overburdened communities throughout the Great Lakes Basin. The program is part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which received $1 billion in funding through Schumer and Gillibrand’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Specifically, this funding was secured to protect, improve, and preserve the Great Lakes and their related waterways, which include the Niagara River, Lake Erie, and many other areas along the Western New York shoreline.

The senators have been long-time advocates for the GLRI. In February, Schumer and Gillibrand sponsored legislation the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2024, which extends this critical program for another five years through 2031, and increases annual funding levels from $475 million in 2026 to $500 million from 2027 through 2031. Schumer announced $2,522,950 in October 2023 for Erie County to support continued efforts to restore and revitalize the Buffalo River. In July 2023, Schumer and Gillibrand also delivered over $2.5 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding for three different projects across Upstate NY to restore fish habitat across the Great Lakes.

Schumer has long been a champion for the Great Lakes, fighting off budget cuts to the GLRI in 2019 and working to secure a multimillion dollar increase in authorization levels for the program in 2018. Over the last decade, the GLRI has controlled invasive species on at least 115,000 acres and kept more than 402,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the Lakes. GLRI has also played a critical role in fish and wildlife protection.