Congressman Brian Higgins and Erie Canal Harbor Development (ECHDC) President Tom Dee marked the start of construction on a demonstration project which could lead to sand beaches along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
“Anyone visiting Gallagher Beach this past summer knows that the public has been ahead of us on this,” said Congressman Higgins. “People are already bringing their families down to the water and setting their beach chairs along the shore but they are getting less than they deserve. The creation of these sand beaches is driven by public demand and is the next step in our continued transformation of Buffalo’s waterfront, preserving public access and driving new private sector interest thanks to the growing critical mass drawn to the water’s edge.”
Sand will be placed at Gallagher Beach, currently owned by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), and on the ECHDC-owned parcel that previously served as home to the New York Power Authority ice boom. At each location, the sand will be placed approximately one foot thick in areas spanning approximately 100 feet wide by 150 feet long.
“It is our hope that as a result of the sand sustainable study, we will be able to begin the next steps, including water testing and other regulatory reviews, towards the creation of the first public beach within city limits,” said Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation Chairman Robert Gioia. “Public access continues to be a priority for Governor Cuomo and ECHDC and with water being our region’s most valuable asset, we must better leverage this strength to spur future growth on the waterfront and encourage additional private investment. We are excited about the vast potential for recreational uses a public beach at Canalside would provide for both visitors and residents alike, and look forward to a successful outcome.”
The construction of the sand demonstration project along the Outer Harbor is funded with approximately $300,000 secured through the New York Power Authority Relicensing Agreement, approved by ECHDC at their September meeting. The sustainability of the sand will be tested immediately after placement this year and again in the spring to determine next steps toward full scale beach development. The testing at Gallagher Beach is being done in cooperation with the NFTA
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is the lead agent on the project to determine if sand placed on existing waterfront surface will persist from year to year. A local company, Nature’s Way Environmental, a certified Women-Owned Business located in Alden, New York, is the lead contractor on the project. They will be working with local Minority Owned Business Iroquois Bar to meet Minority and Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) participation goals. URS Corporation in Buffalo, NY provided the design work and prepared materials for the permits necessary through the Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Coastal Review.
The sand projects complement other improvements at the two sites. In May of 2012 a $1.4 million federally funded project was completed creating a pavilion and picnic area at Gallagher Beach and construction of a boardwalk and decorative signage at Times Beach. Construction also recently began, thanks to $3.3 million in NYPA settlement funding, on a project adding pedestrian paths, volleyball courts, natural playgrounds, wind sculptures and docking at the Outer Harbor Parcel.
Congressman Higgins has long advocated for the placement of sand at the Gallagher Beach site in particular. One of Higgins’ first acts in Congress was to push for the development of this beach through federal legislation. In 2010, Higgins included creation of a sand beach in his waterfront plan presented to ECHDC following Bass Pro’s withdrawal from consideration at Canalside. As a member of the New York State Assembly, Higgins secured $4 million for the Gallagher Beach boardwalk and related improvements in 2003; since that time, more than $300 million has been invested in the revitalization of Buffalo’s waterfront.