Regional Waterfront Revitalization Initiatives

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.

LWRPs Coverage

Currently, 101 communities throughout the Great Lakes region are eligible to prepare and participate in the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP).  To date, there are 27 approved LWRPs involving 39 communities.  The region’s major population centers are all participating in the Program, including the Cities of Rochester, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Oswego and Watertown.

LWRPs Implementation $$$

Funding to develop and implement LWRPs is available from the Environmental Protection Fund.  Since 1994, 195 Environmental Protection Fund Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (EPF LWRP) grants totaling more than $25 million have been awarded to over 47 different communities within the Great Lakes region. 

Waterfront Revitalization

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.

Small Harbors

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. 

Niagara River Watershed Planning

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.

Great Lakes Coastal Watershed Restoration Program

New York’s Great Lakes watersheds sustain clean water, which support abundant fisheries, wildlife and agriculture, drinking water supplies for urban and rural populations, and provide a broad range of recreational activities important to local economies.  Restoring impaired habitats and changing practices that result in the discharge of polluted municipal and industrial runoff into streams, rivers and lakes are important goals for the state, its communities, and its citizens.

In 2001, New York received $4.5 million in federal funding distributed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to protect and restore coastal resources and water quality in communities throughout its Great Lakes watershed.  Using these funds, the Department worked with other state agencies and environmental groups to leverage an additional $10 million in needed improvements.  Those projects are now helping to prevent contamination through erosion control, debris removal, and treatment of storm water runoff.  Other projects are restoring streams, improving fish passage, and establishing buffer zones of native vegetation around water bodies to minimize infiltration of pollutants and improve wildlife habitat.

A few of the projects completed with New York’s Great Lakes Coastal Watershed Restoration Program funding include:

  • Buffalo River Watershed Restoration (located in Erie County/in partnership with Erie County Soil & Water Conservation District) - Streambank stabilization to improve water quality

  • 45,000 Acre Land and Conservation Easement Acquisition on the Tug Hill Plateau (located in Lewis County/in partnership with Tug Hill Commission) - Protects Lake Ontario watersheds and habitats

  • 35 Acre Parma Coastal Forest and Wetland Acquisition and Management Plan Development (located in and in partnership with Monroe County) - Benefits Braddock Bay Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat, resident and migratory bird populations and protects Lake Ontario water quality

  • Eighteenmile Creek Restoration,  Lake Ontario tributary (located in and in partnership with Niagara County) - Restoration to reduce sedimentation and improve habitat and fishing access

  • Sucker Brook Stormwater Retrofit – (located in Ontario and Yates counties/in partnership with City of Canandaigua) - Stormwater remediation and development of a model law to protect forested areas within the Lake Ontario watershed, and benefit water quality in Sucker Brook and Canandaigua Lake

  • Eastern Lake Ontario Dunes Management Plan update (located in Oswego County/in partnership with Oswego County Soil & Water Conservation District) - Preparation of New York’s Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland System: Guidelines for Resource Management in the 21st Century to guide the conservation and beneficial use of the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Wetland System 

Today, many of these projects are being complemented by projects funded through Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund, Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.