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Great Lakes AOCs

About Niagara River AOC

Niagara River Boundary MapPrintable Niagara River Boundary MapThe Niagara River is located in Erie and Niagara counties in western New York. In 1987 the Niagara River was designated an AOC as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987.

AOC Boundaries

The AOC includes Smokes Creek near the southern end of Buffalo Harbor, north to the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario.

Sources of Pollution

The area was considered highly degraded due to:
  • post-industrial and municipal discharges degrading water quality and producing bottom sediment problems
  • a long history of development affecting fish and wildlife habitat
  • metals and cyanides in bottom sediments
  • hazardous waste sites
  • two Superfund sites
  • contaminated discharges from Lake Erie's watershed

Habitat degradation and the survival of aquatic life in the AOC have been impaired by toxic chemicals such as PCBs, mirex, chlordane, dioxin, dibenzofuran, hexachlorocyclo-hexane, PAHs and pesticides.

Beneficial Use Impairments

Beneficial Use Impairments for the Great Lakes AOCs

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Fish tumors or other deformities - Removed 2016
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restriction on dredging activities
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems


Restoring the Niagara River AOC (timeline)


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Using funding partially provided by the Great lakes Restoration Initiative, the GLRC  has set up a series of real-time monitoring stations located across New York State. The stations serve both as a guide for scientific testing for new instrumentation and as a source of weather and water data for teaching purposes.

NYSDEC works actively with the Canadians on the Niagara River issues. These activities include river monitoring, control of industrial and municipal waste, proper management and cleanup of dumpsites, identification of chemicals of concern, and cooperation on other technical and scientific issues.

This commission was established in late 2004  to work with participating state agencies, organizations and residents in order to restore parks and conservation areas the Niagara River riverfront, to be known as the Niagara River Greenway. The Greenway will  increase landside access to the river; create free access to the greenway from the river; strengthen economic recovery efforts and celebrate the industrial history in Niagara and Erie Counties.

New York Sea Grant issued a series of impact statements for projects completed in 2012.