Sediment reuse saving ecosystem on Unity Island

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is turning sediment from the Buffalo River into a natural habitat on Unity Island.

The sediment from dredging would normally be considered waste, but is instead working to reverse a degrading ecosystem.

Representatives from the Corps and the city of Buffalo, along with Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) cut the symbolic ribbon Thursday morning on the overall project’s second phase.

The agreement will allow the Corps to use about 50,000 cubic yards of clean dredged sediment from the Buffalo River to raise the bed in one of three ponds that make up the man-made ecosystem on Unity Island.

“This is clean fill that’s dredged and then being reused for ecologic purposes,” said Buffalo Commissioner of Parks Andrew Rabb. “This is just taking that material that is usually dumped somewhere and using it to do something beneficial for shoreline restoration.”

Work also includes creating an opening in the existing stone dike that separates the pond from the Niagara River to open the area to more fish.

The overall project, started in the late 1990s to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species into the upper Niagara River, and clean up pollution left behind by decades of industry.

“This is a project that grew not from Washington or Albany down, but from the community up,” Higgins said. “And if you look at the tradition of the American environmental movement, it was a reaction to abuse on our waterways.”

Approximately $100 million dollars has been spent to clean up the Buffalo River, which included removing more than 67,000 truck loads of contaminated sediment, which was sent to facility that accepts hazardous waste.

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