"Healthy Niagara" initiative identifies best and worst of area waterways

Dec 5, 2014

One local agency has taken a comprehensive look at the health of the waterways across much of the Western New York region. WBFO’s Avery Schneider reports.

Sub-watersheds of the Niagara River Watershed
Credit Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper / WBFO News

Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s “Healthy Niagara” initiative took a look at waterways across more than 900,000 acres in the five northern counties of Western New York. Those waterways are all part of a watershed – a system that feeds into the Niagara River.

“This is the first time the region has done a collective collaborative effort to identify how our watershed is doing, how is it influencing our waters, and where is it we need to take it for our future,” said Riverkeeper’s Assistant Director of Planning Laurie Stillwell.

Stillwell said depending on where area residents go they might see waterways with erosion, lack of vegetation, and pollution from municipal storm water. The project found that some of the major influences on these conditions include land development patterns and impacts from agricultural runoff. Stillwell said with that knowledge, the plan can move forward.

Watershed diagram
Credit Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper / WBFO News

“We’re at a turning point with the watershed where we’re able to figure out what’s happening and where we want to improve watershed health,” Stillwell said.

The initiative also identified the most and least healthy of the sub-watersheds – that’s all of those creeks and rivers that feed the Niagara.

Stillwell said next up in the process is drafting recommendations, and then developing in-depth plans on conserving the best waterways, and fixing the worst.