Restoring the Buffalo River

'Restoring the Buffalo River' highlights the collaborative efforts undertaken to complete restoration work along the Buffalo River in New York.

History of the River

The legacy of the Buffalo River is defined by its heavy industrialization, sediment contamination, agricultural runoff, poor water quality, and habitat degradation/alteration. Together, these characteristics left the river to be considered “biologically dead” in the 1960s. Today, the Buffalo River’s past is still evident but significant progress has been made to address these issues.
Background of the Area of Concern

In 1989, the Buffalo River was declared an Area of Concern (AOC) by the International Joint Commission. The Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) Remedial Advisory Committee designated the river for 9 of 14 possible Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs). Ultimately, the AOC program seeks to address each BUI and “delist” the AOC with a goal of restoring a minimum of 25 percent of the AOC’s shoreline with natural slopes, shallow water habitat, and aquatic native vegetation.

Since its designation as an AOC, much has been accomplished in the Buffalo River, especially in remediating hazardous waste sites. Significant work to remediate contaminated sediment, which will aid in delisting seven of the AOC’s nine BUIs, has recently been completed. The completed habitat restoration projects at the above locations have directly benefited fish and wildlife populations and will aid in the removal of several BUIs ultimately leading to the delisting of the Buffalo River by 2022.

Project Impacts

All project sites (Buffalo Motor and Generator, NYSDEC Ohio St. Boat Launch, Toe of Katherine St. Peninsula, Blue Tower Turning Basin, Buffalo Color Peninsula, RiverBend Phase I and II, and Old Bailey Woods) are completed and are currently being managed and monitored by the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. The projects provided significant on-the-ground benefits to the AOC including invasive species removal, near-shore habitat improvement, native species plantings, aquatic vegetation plantings, and shoreline softening. Monitoring and post-restoration management will continue throughout the summer of 2018 with all project work anticipated to be completed by fall 2018.

Funding and Partners

Just under $6 million was provided for these projects by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through a Regional Partnership with the Great Lakes Commission. Funding came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a regional program that supports the implementation of a comprehensive plan for the Great Lakes, including restoration of Areas of Concern. The projects are being managed locally by Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, who have been participating and coordinating the restoration of the Buffalo River for more than 25 years.

  • Reilly Manz
  • Eric Ellis
  • Beth Wanamaker
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Web / New Media
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Environmental, Educational
  • Runtime:
    4 minutes 13 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 10, 2019
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Reilly Manz

Reilly Manz started with the Great Lakes Commission in May of 2017 as a policy and communications intern and began his role as a program specialist in September 2017 to support GLC communications and advocacy work. He also supports the outreach efforts of the NOAA-GLC Partnership for habitat restoration, the Blue Accounting initiative's external affairs team, the Great Lakes Dredging Team, and the Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program.

Reilly is a Michigan native, spending his childhood in Bloomfield Hills. He attended the University of Missouri – Columbia, where he earned a B.A. in political science with an emphasis in international relations while minoring in sociology.

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