Army to slow down Niagara River to help a tiny fish with ‘outsize importance’
The Army Corps of Engineers is slowing down the Niagara River, or at least a tiny section of it, all to help a tiny species of fish.
The Corps is working on a 78-feet stretch of the river along the seawall of Broderick Park, rebuilding the seawall and attaching strong baffles to the wall that will slow down the river flow right against the wall.
It’s meant to help the emerald shiner, a tiny fish that can't swim upstream against the flow of the mighty Niagara and its endless, 8-miles-per-hour flow. The baffles will allow the emerald shiner to swim upstream and be consumed by larger fish like walleye and even birds that live along the river.
“The emerald shiner, as tiny as they are, has an outsize importance,” said Project Manager Tim Noon. “Bigger fish eat them and kind of up the food chain from there. So if you remove the sort of base of the food web, it has a ripple effect all the way up the food chain and it really has the potential to affect the entire ecosystem.”
The baffles attached to the repaired seawall should be safe in the river, despite its harsh conditions, fluctuating water levels and large among of ice this time of year.
“We really tried to incorporate that into the design of these baffles and they're pretty stout features,” Noon said. “They were designed for those forces.”
The project is nearly done, although that may be obscured a bit because the Army Corps and the City of Buffalo have a project in the same area. The city is repairing the Bird Island Pier after several years of winter damage.