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Great Lakes AOCs

About Buffalo River AOC

Buffalo River AOC Boundary MapThe Buffalo River AOC Boundary MapThe Buffalo River was designated as an Area of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. $48.5 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's Great Lakes Legacy Act program is used to remediate and restore this AOC for removal from the binational list of AOCs.

AOC Boundaries

The Buffalo River Area of Concern is located in the City of Buffalo in western New York State. The river flows from the east and discharges into Lake Erie near the head of the Niagara River. The “impact area” extends from the mouth of the Buffalo River to the farthest point upstream at which the backwater condition exists during Lake Erie’s highest monthly average lake level. The AOC also includes the entire 1.4-mile stretch of the City Ship Canal, located adjacent to the river.

Sources of Pollution

The area was highly degraded because of heavy industrial development in the middle of a large municipality. Some of those degradations are:

  • contaminated bottom sediments
  • 33 combined sewer overflow outfalls
  • 3 connections to the Buffalo sewer system from outside sewer districts
  • 45 inactive hazardous waste sites within the AOC

Contaminants of concern include PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), metals and industrial organics. Dissolved oxygen levels, turbidity and bacterial contamination all pose water quality concerns. Potential riparian and aquatic habitat areas were limited due to contamination, development and an altered shoreline.

The AOC includes:
  • the 6.2-mile impact area
  • the entire 1.4-mile stretch of the City Ship Canal, neighboring the river
  • the AOC source area made up of three major streams in the watershed:
    • Cayuga Creek
    • Buffalo Creek
    • Cazenovia Creek

Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs)

Beneficial Use Impairments for the Great Lakes AOCs

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Degradation of aesthetics
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat 

Restoration

Restoring Buffalo River AOC (timeline)

The Buffalo River Restoration ProjectExit

Partners

USACE is responsible for dredging sediment in the Buffalo River, City Ship Canal, and harbors in order to maintain the federal navigation channel. USACE acted in an oversight role on the GLLA project and processed the applicable regulatory permits. They are also implementing habitat restoration projects throughout the AOC with GLRI funding.

The following links exit the site Exit

Erie County is the recipient of the current RAP Management grant and selected Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to continue the RAP coordination components. The County is also implementing habitat restoration projects within the AOC with GLRI funding.

Honeywell is a non-federal sponsor on the GLLA project and is contributing 50% of the total project costs.

NYS DEC is responsible for executing many of the remedial actions that have occurred at active and inactive upland hazardous waste sites along the Buffalo River. DEC also acted in an oversight role on the GLLA project and processed the applicable regulatory permits.