Great Lakes Initiatives
The Great Lakes region of New York State’s coastal area is a unique economic, social, and cultural area that includes Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the Niagara and St. Lawrence Rivers. This region of New York’s coast faces many issues, including economic growth and conservation, redevelopment of brownfields and deteriorated urban waterfronts, watershed management and water quality improvements, habitat protection, and coastal hazards such as flooding and erosion. Issues of interest at the present time also include the siting of wind energy facilities and regulation of water level on Lake Ontario. Regional initiatives include participation on the and implementation of the Niagara River Greenway Plan.
City of Rochester - The City of Rochester originally completed its LWRP over twenty years ago, then amended in 2010 to guide future land use and zoning decisions for the Port of Rochester area at the confluence of Lake Ontario and the Genesee River. The City is proposing a mixed-use development project containing a public marina, housing, and commercial development opportunities, and the project was identified as a high priority 5-year project included in the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s Strategic Plan. The City has also started preparing a more comprehensive amendment to its LWRP, which will expand the waterfront revitalization study area to include the entire lengths of the Genesee River and Erie Canal within the City’s limits.
To further this partnership, $6.8 million in grants from the EPF LWRP have been awarded to the City for a variety of projects, including development of shoreline trails along the Genesee River, redevelopment of the port area, and the development of boating access improvements along the Erie Canal.
City of Buffalo - The City of Buffalo considers the waterfront to be among its most important recreational aesthetic and economic resources. The City’s substantially completed draft LWRP is aimed at restoring and revitalizing the deteriorated and underutilized areas along the City’s Lake Erie and Buffalo River waterfronts. A new comprehensive zoning ordinance currently under development, the Buffalo Green Code, will accommodate appropriate waterfront uses.
Waterfront revitalization in Buffalo is a public/private effort involving the City along with such nonprofit organizations as the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, and the Valley Community Association; and, public charities, such as the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, who helped create a [Western New York Environmental Alliance] to strategically engage community-wide resources to improve environment, economy, and quality of life. There are a number of projects that are planned or underway for improving the use and development of the waterfront area and providing greater public benefit, including Ship Canal Commons, a new waterfront park within a newly developed urban commerce park built on reclaimed industrial waterfront land along Lake Erie.
Altogether, Buffalo has received nine grants from the EPF LWRP totaling $3.5 million for a variety of design and construction projects to revitalize its waterfronts.
To address the long-term viability and safety of small boat harbors, the Department is currently working with communities along the southern Lake Ontario shoreline to update and expand the Lake Ontario Regional Dredging Plan (completed in 2000) to include more realistic options for dredging and maintenance funding. The planning process will include several public meetings to gather input and support from the public and elected officials. The Plan will provide a comprehensive approach to the ongoing dredging and maintenance needs of coastal facilities, which will be cost effective and environmentally feasible and set forth a path for communities to work together the address this critical issue.
The Niagara River is recognized as a resource essential to the vibrancy, sense of place, and the economy of western New York. However, over the years development and industry have severely impacted water quality and habitat in the Niagara River Watershed. Through the EPF LWRP, the Department is providing funding to the Town of Tonawanda and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper to begin planning for the region’s degraded waterways by developing a Niagara River Atlas, State of the Niagara River Watershed Report, and Niagara River Watershed Management Plan. [hyperlink to the watershed plans page]
The Watershed Management Plan will focus on New York’s contributing area of the Niagara River watershed, an area of 1,225 square miles, encompassing parts of Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, and Erie counties. The Watershed Report will provide current information on the health of the river, document successes and improvements, and inform citizens as to how to become involved in the process.
Today, many of these projects are being complemented by projects funded through Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund, Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.