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Four artificial-reef havens for fish placed in Upper Niagara River

Underwater work to enhance fish habitats in the Upper Niagara River took a step forward this month.

Four artificial reefs have been placed between the Grand Island and Tonawanda shorelines, the New York Power Authority announced Thursday.

Populations of various species of fish, including muskellunge, walleye, northern pike and large- and small-mouth bass, are expected to be able to use the structures as areas for safe rest and to forage, the authority said in a news release.

Richard M. Kessel, New York Power Authority president and CEO, said in a statement that the NYPA's involvement "to enhance fish habitats helps ensure future generations will enjoy the river's beauty and vitality."

The work is part of approximately $12 million in projects to enhance fish and wildlife in the region impacted by operations at the authority's Niagara Power Project.

Herbert F. Darling, a Buffalo contracting firm, was awarded a $118,000 contract to complete the structures, each of which will have a different design made up of rocks, logs and boulders.

The projects are located upstream and downstream of the south Grand Island bridges, off the west shore of Motor Island and off Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda. They are outside of commercial shipping channels and will be monitored with underwater cameras.

There will be at least eight to 10 feet of clearance between the top of each reef and the river's surface during periods of low-water levels, the authority said.

Approvals for the project came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Last year, federal regulators awarded the authority a 50-year operating license for the power project. Terms of the license require the authority to provide various forms of financial assistance to area municipalities and not-for-profits for various projects, including the development of the Niagara River Greenway.

Other planned habitat improvement projects include restoration of Strawberry Island and wetlands restoration at Beaver Island State Park.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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