Not too long ago the Buffalo River was declared biologically dead. Since 2005 close to $100 million has been invested to bring the waterway back to life.
There is still some work to be done. A $1.6 million Buffalo River Dredging Project will begin next week. It will remove around 120,000 cubic yards of sediment from the federal channel to help maintain navigable waters.
As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers go to work, Buffalo District Commander Lt. Col. Adam Czekanski said the dredged sediment no longer poses a substantial risk to human health or the environment.
“As the sediment continues to become a better quality over time, we can start using the sediment or reviewing the sediment not as a waste but a resource,” said Czekanski. “That’s the key takeaway. We’re not just taking it and dumping it in a confined disposal facility… but we’re taking it and using it as a resource.”
Czekanski said management of dredged sediment this year will serve as a model for future projects seeking to beneficially use dredged material throughout the Great Lakes Region. Part of the project includes an aquatic habitat and invasive species management initiative that’s underway at Unity Island.
“There’s multiple aspects to that project,” said Czekanski. “Some of it is removing invasive plant species. Replanting native species. But also there’s a portion at the northern most end of the island. It’s a deeper body of water (right now) so there material being placed in there to make it much shallower to create a different ecosystem all together.”
The river water is cleaner and safer than it has been in prior years. As the summer sun starts to hit the region, that progress will become more visible.
“The drudging we begin next week is a continuation of our longstanding commitment to safe navigation. But it’s also a continuation of our commitment to ecosystem restoration in the region,” Czekanski said.
The first phase of Buffalo River dredging will begin May 7.