Mon March 18, 2013
Sequester affecting Buffalo River cleanup
A major cleanup of the Buffalo River may be a casualty of the Sequester as Washington fights over money for the EPA and other federal agencies.
The cleanup involves hauling away 600,000 cubic yards of contaminated sludge from the river bottom. Half of the cost will come from Washington, which may not happen now because of the Sequester potentially blocking the federal dollars.
The dredging project is the last part of a massive remediation of the river, hauling away two centuries of industrial waste from the factories which once lined the waterway.
Environmentalists have been trying to clean up the river for nearly 60 years. There have been millions of dollars spent over the years on cleanups and legal changes have removed many pollutants from waste streams.
The waters have recovered to the point there is a new park on the Buffalo River, a new rowing club, and a multi-million dollar apartment complex is in the works. The city is planning a massive development on a bend in the river.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has long championed the cleanups. Executive Director Jill Jedlicka says it might still happen if there is a deal in Washington.
"We are going to begin phase two of the environmental dredging of the river which is the areas that weren't tapped two years ago that are outside the center of the channel to pick up the remaining 600,000 cubic yards of contamination that are in the river that need to be removed and also set the stage for the shoreline enhancement and restoration work that would happen once dredging is done," Jedlicka said.
Jedlicka says it's a complicated financing package with the second phase budgeted at $44 million, shared between the EPA and non-federal sponsors, primarily Honeywell Corporation.
Rep. Brian Higgins says he has been pushing hard to make sure the cleanup money remains available and not another Sequester casualty.