Riverkeeper’s “Rust to Blue” initiative: Toward a “blue economy” in Buffalo Niagara
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has long been a catalyst for action to restore and protect our region’s water, its greatest natural asset; today the organization is sharpening the focus on the role of water in creating a truly sustainable prosperity for Buffalo Niagara through its blue economy initiative “Rust to Blue.”
In general, the concept of the “blue economy” emphasizes innovation to create more with less, using local resources, avoiding waste, and leaving our basic natural resources – soil, air, and water – in better condition than before. For Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, moving from “Rust to Blue” means taking care of our region’s water as the foundation for a new and more sustainable economy.
Water has always been at the foundation of the Buffalo economy, first as a medium for shipping, later as a sink for industrial wastes. A blue economy also depends on water, but far from polluting our streams, rivers, and lake, the coming new economy will restore and protect those resources.
Our abundant supply of drinking water will become a regional competitive advantage as climate change depletes water resources elsewhere. Our water bodies will be an attraction for businesses focused on tourism, sport fishing, sailing, and other forms of recreation. Our waterfronts will be a valued amenity to attract new residents. Investments in “green infrastructure” to manage storm water will generate new jobs. Water will be a key ingredient in advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences innovation, and clean waste processing.
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has been engaged for 20 years advocating for water resources and forging partnerships to restore and protect our watershed.
- Riverkeeper led the multi-stakeholder process for the Buffalo River Remedial Action Plan, securing more than $70 million in grants to clean up the heavily polluted waterway, and working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to implement the plan.
- Riverkeeper spearheaded the effort to develop lower-cost “green infrastructure” solutions to Buffalo’s combined sewer overflow problem and partnered with the Buffalo Sewer Authority to implement the program.
- Riverkeeper was a key player in the New York Power Authority relicensing process leading to creation of a $450 million fund to create the Niagara River Greenway, a system of linear parks, trails, and conservation areas between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
- Riverkeeper has been a key player in efforts by the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation to clean up and redevelop the former Republic Steel site as part of an emerging “Riverbend” neighborhood plan.
- Riverkeeper has conducted public outreach and education to Buffalo’s burgeoning immigrant communities on safe ways to eat fish from the Niagara River – including a pamphlet produced in Nepali and Burmese as well as English, French, and Spanish.
Overall, Riverkeeper has spent $7 million over the past five years to leverage $250 million from partner organizations for investments in projects to revitalize our waters and improve access.
Now Riverkeeper is instigating a farther-reaching conversation about how our water can provide the foundation for a new less wasteful, healthier, and more sustainable economy for our region. Riverkeeper is putting forward five basic principles for transforming “Rust to Blue”:
- Healthy water drives economic revitalization.
- Public access and open space protection is prioritized.
- Natural systems are designed into community redevelopment.
- The Niagara River Greenway is a catalyst for waterfront revitalization and connections.
- Public, private and non-profit partnerships are leveraged for solutions.
Riverkeeper is bringing this conversation to the table at One Region Forward where they were recently appointed to serve on the Steering Committee. They want to give more emphasis to the role of water in a regional plan for sustainable development. And they want to get people thinking about how water can be a key element in promoting economic development that is sustainable in the truest sense of the word.
To learn more about Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s Blue Economy Initiative, visit bnriverkeeper.org/blue-economy-initiative/. Also, you can see a video of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper’s Executive Director, Jill Jedlicka, discussing the Blue Economy Initiative with The Buffalo News.
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