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If Our Water Could Talk
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper

RIVERKEEPER® is a community-based organization dedicated to protecting the quality and quantity of water, while connecting people to water. We do this by cleaning up pollution from our waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, enhancing public access through greenways that expand parks and open space, and engaging and educating the community.

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is a nonprofit in Western New York leading a regional transformation from a rust belt region to a blue economy, showcasing an international restoration model for the Great Lakes. For over 25 years, Riverkeeper has brought together multiple partners, community leaders and other nonprofits to advance solutions for complex environmental problems. We have successfully leveraged Great Lakes investments with millions of dollars of private investments to clean up, restore and revitalize the Buffalo River and other area waterways.

Buffalo River Restoration

In 2013, as part of the Buffalo River Restoration Partnership, Riverkeeper and our partners kicked off Phase II of the largest sediment cleanups in the Great Lakes, a $44 million investment to restore the Buffalo River. This project has enhanced the local economy with new private and public sector developments investing in parts of the restored river. This includes Canalside which brings more than 500,000 people down to the river, many of whom now can enjoy paddling, boating and other recreation experiences. Riverkeeper implemented restoration of 2,800 feet of shoreline along the Buffalo River at a former steel manufacturing facility known as “RiverBend.” More than ten years ago, Riverkeeper was the first nonprofit organization in the country to be federally designated as a Remedial Action Plan coordinator for a Great Lakes Area of Concern.

Restoring Impaired Waterways

Riverkeeper is leading numerous initiatives throughout Western New York for impaired waterways such as Scajaquada Creek and Niagara River. Riverkeeper recently helped implement a neighborhood demonstration project to prevent combined sewer overflows into Scajaquada Creek. Riverkeeper worked for five years to secure a commitment from the Buffalo Sewer Authority to implement $92 million in green infrastructure, and in its first year, our first collaborative green streets demonstration project captured more than 2 million gallons of stormwater within the Scajaquada Creek watershed. Through our partnership with PUSH Buffalo and Center for Employment Opportunities, we are establishing a national pilot program on water restoration, community revitalization and workforce development on the Buffalo’s West Side as a replicable model for the entire community.

Habitat Restoration

Riverekeeper is leading a project to restore habitat throughout the Niagara River watershed through a comprehensive analysis to identify areas that are most crucial for restoration, elimination of habitat connectivity barriers, and mitigation of development threats.

Parks & Greenways

Riverkeeper, in partnership with the City of Buffalo, implemented Broderick Park improvements to enhance a waterfront open space that is part of the Niagara River Greenway, an internationally significant corridor. Park improvements included a memorial to the Underground Railroad, a stage, an amphitheater, gardens and improved walkways.

Fish Consumption Outreach

Riverkeeper's Environmental Justice program made national headlines in The Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Chronicle, for our innovative outreach methods. The program provides fish consumption information to the highest risk populations; refugees and immigrants from Burma, Nepal and East African nations. Riverkeeper has leveraged Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to develop and disseminate enhanced fish consumption advisories into five different languages and low literacy booklets.

Shoreline Cleanups

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper organizes the largest Shoreline Cleanup in Buffalo Niagara with more than 1,500 volunteers at 43 waterfront sites throughout the Buffalo Niagara area. This event reconnects people to their greatest natural asset, fresh water. This direct form of engagement is the foundation of our transition from a rust belt city to one with a thriving Great Lakes blue economy. The event this year will roll out a theme, “The Story of Stuff,” connecting restoration work to disposable culture, highlighting the value of sustainability and the importance of a blue economy in WNY.

Young Environmental Leader Program (YELP)

Riverkeeper’s YELP empowers high school students from Buffalo’s most underprivileged schools through WNY’s outdoor classroom to become active community leaders and pursue careers in science and the environment. Buffalo Niagara is a national example of environmental leadership through the Buffalo River Restoration Partnership, green infrastructure investments and citizen-based water quality research. The program uses Riverkeeper’s professional staff and real-world examples for an innovative, hands-on program.

Five Facts about the Buffalo River

  1. When complete, the Buffalo River Restoration project will have removed 488,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment. This is equivalent to about 33,000 truckloads.
  2. Habitat restoration at RiverBend recently restored 2,800 linear feet of shoreline with more than 2,000 native plants. The RiverBend site provides one of the longest stretches of undeveloped shoreline in the Buffalo River Area of Concern. The project area was formerly the Republic Steel and Donner Hanna Coke Facilities in South Buffalo. There are signs of life at the site including birds and other wildlife.
  3. Near the mouth of the Buffalo River at Times Beach is an important bird area where many species stop to rest during spring migration. The strategic location is the intersection of Lake Erie and the Niagara River that provides habitat and food for many bird species.
  4. The Buffalo River has shown a remarkable transformation over the past few years with new parks along Ohio Street and the foot of Hamburg Street. These parks offer car-top boat launches to enhance recreational use of the Buffalo River for kayakers and canoers.
  5. The Buffalo River has several lesser known natural areas, including Seneca Bluffs and the Oxbow wetland that provide flood plains and wetlands, and are wildlife sanctuaries. These are hidden gems that serve to improve the environment, as well as enhance the beauty of this urban waterway.
Watch  an Extended Interview with Riverkeeper Jill Jedlicka 
Rating: TV-G

As the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Jill Jedlicka has a passion for water conservation. She and her organization have done much of the legwork to help clean up the Buffalo River and other waterways around Western New York. The work done by Riverkeeper has been integral to the recovery of water all over the region.

Funding for If Our Water Could Talk is provided by HSBC and Honeywell. With additional funding from The Joy Family Foundation, Lawley Insurance and The Baird Foundation.