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The future of 198 redesign may lie in Scajaquada Creek

Scajaquada Creek as it flows through Forest Lawn Cemetery.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
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Scajaquada Creek (right) as it flows through Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The final plan for the future of the Scajaquada Expressway may have a lot to do with the future of Scajaquada Creek, which remains in poor health.

The expressway and creek are paired, although the long tunnel that carries the waterway from near Buffalo's border with Cheektowaga into Forest Lawn Cemetery obscures that. From Hoyt Lake to the Niagara Section of the state Thruway, the connection is much more obvious and visible.

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka is leading the charge for the creek, as less of an industrial sewer and residential sewer dumping ground to being an asset along its path.

"We have all these bandage solutions, over time, where you had a polluted creek system and instead of removing or eliminated the sources of pollution, society decided to engineer tunnels underground, finger dams, disconnecting the creek from the lake, all to protect this one small water body for the benefit of a few, rather than focusing on improving the health of the creek system for the benefit of all," she said.

Jedlicka said a major asset to the creek is the underground waterways which feed it are still there and still putting clean, fresh water into the deep tunnel, and that some days that's the water flowing through the tunnel in front of Marcy Casino and alongside of the expressway on the way to Lake Erie.

"The creek is tied into what we call an artesian water system, which is the historic ground water that was left by the last period of glaciers," she said. "So we've got all this very clear, pristine water that through the rock structures that are under Scajaquada Creek are actually still feeding into that creek, that brings very clean, cold, clear water that is keeping this creek alive."

Jedlicka said a variety of activities are gradually cleaning the creek, like what Cheektowaga and Buffalo are doing to clean sewer lines.

"Within this creek corridor, for various reasons — whether it's the 198 redesign process, re-creating the Humboldt Parkway and connecting communities, more people recreating outside than ever — this past couple of years, we feel that the tide has turned a little bit around Scajaquada and that people finally have hope that changes can be made and this creek can be restored."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.