In 1989, the first Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan (RAP) was completed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). That same year, a group of concerned citizens formed a group focused on the environmental health of the Buffalo River – one of the 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concerns, know as “The Friends of the Buffalo River.” Throughout the 1990’s, the group protected areas along the river from conversion to industrial use and collaborated on three habitat restoration projects along the river.
The group’s mission expanded to include the Niagara River in 2000 and hired their first paid employee a year later. As of 2003, Friends of the Buffalo and Niagara River (FBNR) became the first non-profit organization in the Great Lakes Basin to receive funding and authority from the USEPA to coordinate a Remedial Action Plan and manage its implementation.
By mid-decade, FBNR recognized the global Waterkeeper Alliance movement and become a member, changing the organization name to Buffalo Niagara RIVERKEEPER. Over the next five years, Riverkeeper accomplished much, including:
- becoming the first non-profit to sign a Great Lakes Legacy Act Project Agreement with the USEPA-GLNPO in the upper Buffalo River
- signing a $3 million Great Lakes Legacy Act project agreement with USEPA-GLNPO and Honeywell
- were awarded $1.9 million of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants
- began various projects in partnership with the Buffalo Sewer Authority
- moved into new office space at 1250 Niagara Street
- began a rain barrel and River Tours program
Riverkeeper had grown to an organization of 23 employees and funded at $2.8 million by 2011 with a wide supporter base throughout the Buffalo Niagara community. As the only science-based, community focused, advocacy organization in Western New York dedicated to protecting and restoring the quality and quantity of our most valuable natural asset, our work has become increasingly more important. Riverkeeper is committed to improving the legacy we leave for future generations. Our goal is for everyone to have access to fishable, swimmable and drinkable waterways throughout the Buffalo Niagara region.
A quick review of our major programming includes:
Buffalo River Dredging
Riverkeeper, US Army Corp of Engineers and others began a $50 million, 3-year dredging of the Buffalo River to remove contaminated sediment.
As part of a unique pilot project, Riverkeeper has partnered with the Buffalo Sewer Authority (BSA) to create green streets in the Elmwood District that will reduce stormwater runoff while beautifying city streets.
Riverkeeper and the BSA are addressing stormwater sewer overflows by disconnecting downspouts and using rain barrels in pilot neighborhoods to collect and distribute water for garden use. The project also encourages the use of rain gardens that promote infiltration to replenish our groundwater.
Water Quality Testing
Riverkeeper’s Riverwatch program has trained more than 100 volunteers to test the health of our waterways and address public health issues.
We implement on-the-ground projects to protect our waterways by restoring shorelines and riparian lands, stabilizing eroding riverbanks, planting native trees and shrubs, and removing invasive species.
Fish Consumption Outreach
Riverkeeper’s Environmental Justice Team is working hard to educate the vast population of immigrants, fishermen and their families on how to reduce toxic risks of eating locally caught fish.