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USACE, Buffalo District to host ribbon cutting ceremony for Unity Island Wetland restoration completion

Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District
Published Oct. 22, 2020
The Unity Island wetland restoration site

The Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District will host a ceremonial ribbon cutting event, and media site tour at 1 pm, Monday, October 26, 2020 at the north end of Unity Island Park in Buffalo, NY, in front of the park’s largest pond. The ceremony celebrates the completion The Unity Island Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project that restored 10 acres of coastal wetland habitat.

The Unity Island wetland restoration site

The Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District will host a ceremonial ribbon cutting event, and media site tour at 1 pm, Monday, October 26, 2020 at the north end of Unity Island Park in Buffalo, NY, in front of the park’s largest pond. The ceremony celebrates the completion The Unity Island Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project that restored 10 acres of coastal wetland habitat.

The Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District will host a ceremonial ribbon cutting event, and media site tour at 1 pm, Monday, October 26, 2020 at the north end of Unity Island Park in Buffalo, NY, in front of the park’s largest pond.

The ceremony celebrates the completion The Unity Island Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project that restored 10 acres of coastal wetland habitat.

Attendees include:     

  • Rep. Brian Higgins
  • The City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown
  • The Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
  • Representative from the Greenway Commission
  • Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“This project is a prime example how dredged sediment can help revitalize wetlands and bring important wildlife back to the Niagara River,” said Maj. Patrick Billman, the Buffalo District’s deputy commander. “I’d also like to thank our project sponsors, The City of Buffalo and funding from the Habitat Enhancement and Restoration Fund from the New York Power Authority, that helped get us here to this celebration.” 

The project is an example of a much larger campaign for beneficial use of dredged material in the Great Lakes region.

"The Unity Island projects marry a couple of our mission areas: dredged material management and ecosystem restoration,” said Andrew Hannes, a biologist with the district. “We're creatively using dredged material to build habitat and build a healthy ecosystem. We hope this is the first of many of these types of projects along the Great Lakes."

The project supports the following:

  • Contributes to delisting of the Niagara River Area of Concern by restoring 10 acres of wetland habitat along the Niagara River
  • Thanks to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded clean-up of the Buffalo River years before, over 56,000 cubic yards of clean sediment from the Buffalo River Federal Navigation Channel was used to shallow the depths within the North Pond of Unity Island to restore wetland habitat
  • Invasive species management of over 10 acres followed by restoration seeding and planting has established a diverse native plant community
  • Connecting the Niagara River and the waterbodies of Unity Island allows fish and wildlife access this important and productive habitat type
  • The creation of fish habitat by reusing stone, cleared trees and installing porcupine cribs has provided nursery and foraging habitat for a diverse native fish community including larger game species such as bass, muskellunge and northern pike
  • The Niagara River is designated as a globally significant Important Bird Area, wetlands are critical for sustaining these globally important bird populations

"Our fresh water ecosystems are constantly changing requiring regular monitoring and maintenance,” said Congressman Brian Higgins  “The Unity Island project demonstrates the Army Corps Buffalo District's keen ability to evolve with the changing environment to find innovative solutions to protect and restore the Great Lakes."

The restoration efforts have already proved effective. A dike was created to allow fresh water from the Niagara River to enter the pond, providing better connectivity for aquatic species.

"After we created the opening connecting the Niagara River and Unity Island’s North Pond, we started seeing emerald shiners, muskellunge, northern pike among other species,” said Hannes. “Emerald shiners are a fish species that forms the foundation of the food web in the Niagara River and Lake Erie. We're also now seeing Common tern, a state threatened bird species, dive bombing and feeding on them here. It's awesome."

"The Buffalo River and the Niagara River are identified as federally designated Areas of Concern, of which both systems have suffered for nearly a century with disproportionate impacts of legacy pollution and habitat degradation,” said Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, executive director.  “The decades-long struggle to reclaim and restore regional waterways continues to provide a significant return on investment for our community, as this Niagara River wetland restoration project was made possible because of a cleaner Buffalo River. It should not be lost on anyone that the appropriately named Unity Island is an ideal location where the fates are being rewritten for these two recovering waterways, and demonstrates what is possible when a community carries a bold vision for cleaner, healthier water systems."

“It’s amazing to see the positive changes made to Unity Island as we usher in a new day for this restored natural area and celebrate the completion of The Unity Island Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project,” stated Buffalo City Mayor Byron W. Brown.  “I am proud of my Administration’s role in overseeing this project that restored ten acres of coastal wetland habitat, brought back important wildlife to this great resource and will benefit future generations that are learning to appreciate the wetlands.  Water quality improvement is crucial for our environment, ecosystem and residents’ quality of life, tourism, and international relations.  I thank all of our various partners and governmental agencies who helped make this happen as we continue to work together to build healthy ecosystems along the Great Lakes.”​​

The project was funded 65% by federal funds, and 35% by the Greenway Commission and was done in close coordination the City of Buffalo. 

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative please visit:

https://www.glri.us/ and https://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Great-Lakes-Restoration-Initiative/

For more photos of the Unity Island project please visit:  

https://www.flickr.com/photos/buffalousace/albums/72157662413737886 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/buffalousace/albums/72157704088343574


Contact
Susan Blair
716.879.4410
716.799.2618 (cell)
susan.a.blair@usace.army.mil
1776 Niagara Street

Release no. 20-031