Consulting Solutions that Work for People and the Environment

Niagara Habitat Improvement Projects, NY

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Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C. is the New York Power Authority’s prime Consultant tasked with managing the FERC License compliance for the Niagara Power Project. The Niagara Project, one of our nation’s largest hydropower electric power plants, was relicensed in 2007. Among other things, the terms of the new license called for the implementation of eight habitat improvement projects and nine recreation enhancement projects. The implementation of all of these projects - including project design, permitting, contractor procurement, and construction management - is managed by Gomez and Sullivan and includes services from numerous subconsultants, vendors and contractors. All of these projects are underway and many have been constructed. As of 2014 progress includes encouraging results at the largest HIP – the creation of an 8-acre wetland at Beaver Island State Park – where Gomez and Sullivan’s ecologists documented a substantial increase in native species biomass.

Other HIP progress includes:

Motor, Frog and Strawberry Island HIPs: three islands located in the middle of the Niagara River near the southern tip of Grand Island, NY. Each island has its own unique contribution to the Greater Niagara ecology and all are located within a NY State Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat Area. Motor Island is an important colonial waterbird rookery; Frog Island is the location of a former mid-river emergent wetland; and Strawberry Island offers habitat for fisheries spawning and overwintering. As part of a relicensing settlement, the New York Power Authority opted to enhance these islands to benefit fish, wildlife and plant ecology.

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The Motor Island project has been constructed and ecological restoration is complete. The shoreline at Motor Island was reconstructed to remove wooden cribbing and concrete blocks that acted as ecologic transitional barriers. Once removed, “soft shoreline” components i.e. shallow embayments protected by low profile off-shore berms were constructed to protect from erosion yet still provide a gradual transition from aquatic, wetland, riparian and upland areas. In 2013, 1000’s of emergent and upland native plantings were placed and the entire site will be monitored in years to come to ensure the new conditions continue to meet the intended ecological enhancement objectives.

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Frog Island is a mid-river shallow water knoll devoid of vegetation yet surrounded by lush submergent native plant beds highly regarded for fish ecology. Research has shown that the Frog Island area historically contained emergent vegetation which is now gone, likely due to natural and man-made erosive forces (i.e., wind, ice scour and boat wakes). The objective of this HIP is to create a protective low profile berm to surround the shallow water area and to re-establish native emergent species. Construction of the low profile berm was initiated in 2013 and the bulk of the project (including emergent plantings) will be completed in 2014.

Strawberry Island is the final island HIP to be constructed per license commitments. A conceptual design was completed in 2013 and has been accepted by regulators and local ecological non-governmental organizations. The concept design establishes approximately 5-acres of emergent wetland and enhances fisheries using shoreline features to interrupt strong river currents that pass the island. Construction at Strawberry Island is scheduled to begin in 2015.