Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Honeywell and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office today announced a unique collaboration relating to the Buffalo River.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins formally announced the agreement among the parties at a news conference today at Erie Basin Marina.
Through a unique public-private and non-profit collaborative partnership, the three entities signed a $3 million Great Lakes Legacy Act project agreement. It calls for completing a feasibility study assessing contaminated sediments in a 6.2-mile stretch of the Buffalo River and modifies an existing Legacy Act agreement between Riverkeeper and the EPA signed in March 2007.
The EPA Research Vessel Mudpuppy and contractor boats will be on the river for two weeks for sediment sampling, ecological sampling/mapping and hydrodynamic modeling. The project is on target to select a cleanup remedy in 2009. There will be ample opportunity for the public to participate in the remedy selection process, with a goal to begin sediment clean up in 2010.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has been working with local agencies on contaminated sediment cleanup efforts since 1990.
“Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper not only serves as the primary advocate for cleaning up the Buffalo River, but is changing the traditional role of a non-profit in the Great Lakes restoration,” said Julie Barrett O’Neill, Riverkeeper’s executive director.
“Since 2005, Riverkeeper has taken on the responsibility of a “local project sponsor” as well as incurred financial risk by signing multiple project agreements that have brought nearly $5 million to Buffalo for work on this river,” she said. “In another unique move, Riverkeeper invited Honeywell to join the collaborative process that is making progress towards addressing the river.”
Higgins expressed his confidence in the effectiveness of a collaborative approach.
"The long-term health of our local waterways is vital to our region's environmental and economic future," said Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. "This unique partnership between government, business and non-profit agencies demonstrates leadership among this coalition and is a testament to Western New York's commitment to our Great Lakes system. Just last week I voted with my colleagues in the House of Representatives to approve the Great Lakes Legacy Reauthorization Act, a bill demonstrating a national commitment to our Great Lakes authorizing $150 million annually over the next five years dedicated to continued Great Lake clean-up efforts similar to the agreement being announced today."
Honeywell officials agreed that collaboration works and expressed the company’s commitment.
"Successful, sustainable environmental progress is best achieved when it is done through collaboration among the public, private and non-profit sectors," said Jay Kelly, plant manager for Honeywell's Buffalo Research Laboratory. "We are committed to working together with the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, government and the community to complete the investigation and evaluate potential remedies based on future uses of the river."