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Details of Buffalo River cleanup with June start aired at hearing

More than a million cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be dredged from the Buffalo River over the next three years, thanks to an ambitious public-private partnership aimed at restoring the channel to its pre-industrial pristine quality.

About 50 people attended a hearing Tuesday in School 33, 157 Elk St., to learn more about the cleanup, with the initial phase scheduled to begin June 15. The partners include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, state Department of Environmental Conservation, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Honeywell -- each with representatives at Tuesday's meeting.

"It has economic and ecological benefits, because in all the public dialogue about the waterfront, very little focus is on the water. You can't have waterfront redevelopment without a clean river," said Jill Jedlicka, director of ecological programs for Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

"So, a restored river will not only benefit the Great Lakes, it will benefit local communities that use [that] resource, as well as future planned and proposed economic redevelopment within the region," Jedlicka added.

The cleanup cost is estimated at more than $40 million. The first phase, which will be conducted by the Corps of Engineers, will remove contaminated sediment in the federal navigation channel. The around-the-clock project is expected to be completed by Nov. 15.

The second phase, which will get under way in spring 2012 and last about two years, will address cleanup of the side slopes of the river along a 6.2-mile stretch of the lower river and a 1.4-mile stretch of the City Ship Canal.

"There has already been $6 million invested in all of the planning and research and evaluation of the studies. There are significant resources that the government has invested in this. They're not going to invest in a project they don't want to succeed," Jedlicka said.

She said the partners have already settled on a preferred plan of action for the cleanup and are still seeking public comment on the plan, which is available on the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper website, www.buffaloriverrestoration.org.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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