Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Sandy Beach Park Club break ground on collaborative project on Grand Island

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Innovative erosion control project will construct a “living shoreline” to improve Niagara River water quality and habitat

12189043_10153797621247147_6149844314555822301_nGrand Island, NY – On Monday morning, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and members of the Sandy Beach Park Club were joined by Senator Marc Panepinto at a press event to announce the beginning of a collaborative effort to construct a shoreline restoration project on the Park Club’s property. Representatives from the Town of Grand Island, the town’s Conservation Advisory Board, the Greenway Commission and the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee also attended the groundbreaking to express their support for this innovative project. The goal is to restore nearly 100 feet of Niagara River shoreline in a project that removes a concrete bulkhead wall and replaces it with a beach and “living shoreline.” A living shoreline increases habitat, biodiversity and coastal resiliency. Living shorelines also perform beneficial services such as stabilizing coastal areas, controlling erosion, filtering pollutants before they enter the water and mitigating flooding. The native plants and log features that will be installed during the project will also provide important habitat required for the life cycles of local fish, birds and other wildlife.

“Through this collaboration, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is committed to building resilient shorelines that support habitat, prevent flooding, and protect property,” said Jill Jedlicka, executive director. “By partnering with Sandy Beach Park Club, we are demonstrating the numerous benefits that ecosystem protection can provide to landowners. Due to the continued loss of unique island habitat throughout the Niagara River, this project will also benefit emerald shiner and lake sturgeon populations. We thank the Town of Grand Island for their ongoing commitment to protecting the Niagara River, and we hope that this is the first of many more restoration efforts in this geographically significant community.”

Construction will begin in early December and will be complete by spring of 2016. The funding for this effort was provided by the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee. The project at Sandy Beach is the first of several living shorelines projects to be completed by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper through this effort. All of these sites will serve as demonstration projects and learning laboratories to illustrate how artificial, hardened shorelines can be transformed back into their natural condition in order to provide beneficial services to the river and community.

“The work being announced today is about more than just aesthetics,” said Senator Marc Panepinto (D-Buffalo). “The efforts being made by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper will help to protect our shoreline, create a healthy ecosystem for our wildlife and provide invaluable waterfront access that our residents deserve. As the representative of Erie County’s entire share of waterfront nothing is more important. The renaissance we are experiencing along Buffalo’s shoreline is proof. As we continue to make great strides, I am proud to stand alongside Riverkeeper and partner in their efforts to grow and strengthen a blue economy for all of Western New York.”

Grand Island Town Supervisor Mary Cooke stated, “Grand Island is the very center of the Niagara River Greenway, with 23 miles of shoreline. Efforts to improve the shoreline are always welcome and having this area along the river as a demonstration project for others to imitate is a huge bonus. Thanks to the Sandy Beach Park Club, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the Niagara River Greenway Ecological Standing Committee for making this possible.”

Hardened shorelines, such as concrete, rip rap and sheet metal walls create an unnatural separation between water and land. They decrease the shoreline’s ability to carry out natural processes such as stormwater filtration, erosion control and protection from waves and extreme weather events. During the last 100 years, over 80% of shoreline in the upper Niagara River has been altered to hardened conditions, reducing the shoreline’s ability to filter drinking water and eliminating the presence of important habitat needed for many plant and animal species.

Tim DePriest, chair of the Greenway Ecological Standing Committee, stated, “The Niagara Greenway Ecological Standing Committee regards the Sandy Beach living shoreline project as a great example of how Niagara’s shoreline can be restored to sustain a wide range of ecological benefits that are enjoyed by both visitors and residents of the Greenway.”

Sandy Beach Park Club is a community membership organization that provides a place for families within the Sandy Beach neighborhood to enjoy the waterfront, and features a picnic area, beach access, and small dock. Founded over 75 years ago, the park features a beach which is actively used by the community.

The design of this living shoreline project at Sandy Beach will provide an example of how shoreline uses can include beach access while incorporating natural elements beneficial to the surrounding ecosystem and wildlife. The Sandy Beach Park Club is donating in-kind services in the form of equipment and technical support, and has offered to invite schools and community groups on-site to learn about the science of living shorelines. The site will feature educational signage in order to communicate the importance of natural shorelines.

Brian Murphy, representing the members of the Sandy Beach Park Club, stated, “This project is a remarkable example of how teamwork, dedication and common sense can benefit both our community and the environment! This living shoreline project will restore the waterfront to our vision and will add enhancements that will benefit the environment. We’re proud to be able to say that Sandy Beach will actually have a sandy beach once again.”

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization that has taken on the region’s biggest environmental challenges for over 25 years. We clean up toxic contamination, work to eliminate sewage overflows, restore critical habitat and advocate for the health of the Great Lakes. Our actions protect drinking water, connect people to waterways and build a thriving blue economy. For more information about Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, please visit bnriverkeeper.org or contact Susan Kornacki, Communications and Development Manager, at (716) 852-7483 ext. 38 or skornacki@bnriverkeeper.org.