Niagara Power Project FERC No. 2216

 

MAPPING OF AQUATIC AND RIPARIAN HABITATS OF ELLICOTT AND

TONAWANDA CREEKS, AND TRIBUTARIES TO TONAWANDA CREEK

 

HTML Format.  Text only

 

Prepared for: New York Power Authority 

Prepared by: Gomez and Sullivan Enigeers, P.C. and E/PRO Engineering & Environmental Consulting , LLC

 

August 2005

 

___________________________________________________

 

Copyright © 2005 New York Power Authority

 

ABBREVIATIONS

EAV                emergent aquatic vegetation

FERC               Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

GIS                  Geographical Information System

NYPA              New York Power Authority

SAV                 submerged aquatic vegetation

USACE            United States Army Corps of Engineers

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Aquatic and riparian habitat mapping was conducted on Ellicott Creek, Tonawanda Creek, and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek from June 28, 2004 to July 1, 2004.  Habitats were mapped from the mouth of each creek to the estimated upstream extent of influence from water levels in the upper Niagara River.  Aquatic habitats were characterized using the habitat type (e.g., riffle, run, and pool), typical water depth, substrate composition, and general species composition of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and emergent aquatic vegetation (EAV).  Riparian habitats were characterized by documenting the general species composition, distribution, and structure of tree, shrub, vine and herbaceous plants, and adjacent land uses.

The aquatic and riparian habitats in the lower reaches of Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek are relatively uniform.  The aquatic habitats in the lower reaches of both creeks are characterized as turbid runs that have been dredged.  The upper reaches of both creeks are not dredged, are more sinuous, and have greater habitat variability (e.g., runs with the occasional riffle).  In general, the riparian habitats along both creeks consist of northern successional hardwood forest species or mowed lawns.  The riparian zone along the upper reaches is relatively undeveloped, whereas the riparian zone along the lower reaches is more developed (e.g., more houses, boat docks, boat launches, parks, commercial development, sheet pile bulkheads).

Data reported by Stantec et al. (2005) along cross-sectional transects are representative of the general aquatic and riparian habitat characteristics for the lower reaches of Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek.  An analysis of Niagara River water levels and bottom stream elevation profiles revealed that there are five tributaries to Tonawanda Creek whose water levels could potentially be influenced by water levels in the upper Niagara River.  These include Mud Creek, Ransom Creek, Black Creek, Bull Creek, and Sawyer Creek.  Aquatic and riparian habitat was mapped at a number of road crossings along these tributaries.  Aquatic habitat in these tributaries consisted of runs, riffles, and pools; with runs being the most common.  Riparian habitat along the tributaries consisted of successional northern hardwood forest, successional shrubland, successional old field, and mowed lawn.

 

1.0     INTRODUCTION

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is engaged in the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.  The present operating license of the plant expires in August 2007.  In preparation for the relicensing of the Niagara Project, NYPA is assembling information related to the ecological, engineering, recreational, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects of the Project.  As part of this effort, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C. and E/PRO Engineering and Environmental Consulting, LLC mapped the aquatic and riparian habitats of Ellicott and Tonawanda Creeks and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek.

1.1         Project Description

The 1,880-MW (firm power output) Niagara Power Project is one of the largest non-federal hydroelectric facilities in North America.  The Project was licensed to the Power Authority of the State of New York (now the New York Power Authority) in 1957.  Construction of the Project began in 1958, and electricity was first produced in 1961.

The Project has several components, shown in Figure 1.1-1.  Twin intakes are located approximately 2.6 miles above Niagara Falls.  Water entering these intakes is routed around the Falls via two large underground conduits to a forebay, lying on an east-west axis about 4 miles downstream of the Falls. The forebay is located on the east bank of the Niagara River.  At the west end of the forebay, between the forebay itself and the river, is the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant, NYPA’s main generating plant at Niagara.  This plant has 13 turbines that generate electricity from water stored in the forebay.  Head is approximately 300 feet.  At the east end of the forebay is the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant.  Under non-peak-usage conditions (i.e., at night and on weekends), water is pumped from the forebay via the plant’s 12 pumps/generators into the Lewiston Reservoir, which lies east of the plant.  During peak usage conditions (i.e., daytime Monday through Friday), the pumps are reversed for use as generators, and water is allowed to flow back through the plant, producing electricity.  The forebay, therefore, serves as headwater for the Robert Moses plant and tailwater for the Lewiston Plant.  South of the forebay is a switchyard, which serves as the electrical interface between the Project and the interface between the Project and the interstate transmission grid operated by the New York Independent System Operator.

1.2         Background

Water levels in the upper Niagara River influence water levels in tributaries to the mainstem.  Water level and flow fluctuations are caused by a number of factors in addition to the operation of the Niagara Power Project, which are described by URS et al. (2005a).  Areas within Cayuga, Bergholtz, Woods, Gun, Spicer, Tonawanda, and Ellicott Creeks were identified as being influenced by water levels in the upper Niagara River.  The potential effects of water level fluctuations on habitat for Cayuga, Tonawanda and Ellicott Creeks were assessed by collecting data for three cross-sectional transects per creek.  Habitats were described by their attributes (e.g., depths, vegetation type, substrate, velocity).  The resulting habitat information was used to assess habitat availability and distribution in relation to fluctuating water levels (Stantec et al. 2005).  The general aquatic and riparian habitat characteristics in the upper portion of Cayuga and Bergholtz Creek, Woods, Gun, and Spicer Creeks were documented by Stantec et al. (2005) and URS et al. (2005b).

Further analysis by URS et al. (2005c) provided additional information on the possible influence that fluctuating water levels in the Upper Niagara River may have on tributary water levels.  Habitat studies performed by Stantec et al. (2005) and URS et al. (2005b) sufficiently described the aquatic and riparian habitat of Cayuga, Bergholtz, Woods, Gun, and Spicer Creeks to the established upstream extent.  However, these investigations did not describe the aquatic and riparian habitat to the estimated upstream limit of influence for Ellicott and Tonawanda Creeks.

Due to the uncertainty of the limit of influence in Tonawanda and Ellicott Creeks, the long stream length potentially affected, and the homogenous nature of the habitat, aquatic and riparian habitats associated with these two creeks and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek were not mapped or described with cross-sectional transects.  Instead, information on the general aquatic and riparian habitat characteristics was collected for Ellicott Creek, Tonawanda Creek, and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek to supplement the habitat characterization performed by Stantec et al. (2005).

1.3         Investigation Area

The investigation area includes the aquatic and riparian habitat of Ellicott Creek, Tonawanda Creek, and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek to the estimated upstream limit that could be influenced by water level fluctuations in the Upper Niagara River (URS et al. 2005c) (Figure 1.2-1).  For each water body, the upstream limit of influence was estimated by field observations and by an analysis of bottom stream elevation profiles and upper Niagara River water levels.  The section of the Barge Canal that extends from the confluence with Tonawanda Creek to Lockport was not included in this study.

1.4         Investigation Objectives

The objectives of this investigation were to:

1.       Generally describe the aquatic and riparian habitats of Ellicott Creek, Tonawanda Creek and tributaries to Tonawanda Creek to the estimated upstream limit that could be influenced by water level fluctuations in the Upper Niagara River;

2.       Compare this information with the habitat information collected by Stantec et al. (2005) along cross-sectional transects established in the lower reaches of Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek, and determine if there are any similarities and/or significant differences.

 

Figure 1.1-1

Niagara Power Project Components

[NIP – General Location Maps]

 

Figure 1.2-1

Investigation Area

 

2.0     METHODS

2.1         Habitat Mapping

Field investigations were conducted from June 28, 2004 to July 1, 2004.  Habitat mapping for both Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek was performed from the creek mouth to the estimated upstream extent of influence.  Mapping was generally performed by two biologists using a small motor boat and a portable computer with Geographical Information System (GIS) software used to store the collected data.  The lowermost habitats of Ellicott Creek and Tonawanda Creek (e.g., downstream of Niagara Falls Boulevard and Robinson Road, respectively) were mapped from an automobile along roads parallel to the creeks rather than a boat because the habitat in these areas had already been described (Stantec et al., 2005).  Upstream of these locations the habitats were mapped using a motorboat.  For the tributaries to Tonawanda Creek, aquatic and riparian habitats were mapped at multiple road crossings because: 1) most segments of these tributaries were not navigable by boat and, 2) with the exception of Niagara Falls Boulevard, there were no roads that closely paralleled these tributaries for a significant distance.

Orthophotos from 2002 with a one-foot spatial resolution were loaded into a portable computer along with a data dictionary of potential aquatic and riparian habitat attributes.  During the fieldwork, various habitats were delineated based upon their habitat characteristics.  Each habitat was described using the predefined attributes within the portable computer.  Water depths were measured in both Ellicott and Tonawanda Creeks, and digital photographs of representative habitat areas were taken.  Common names of species observed during the fieldwork are used in the body of this report.  Refer to Appendix A for a listing of both scientific and common names of species.

2.1.1        Aquatic and Riparian Habitat

Aquatic habitat was described using the following:

1.       Habitat type (e.g., riffle, run, and pool).  The following habitat definitions were generalized from Arend (1999), Chapter 8:

·         Riffle:  shallow reach with moderate turbulence, moderate water velocities, and a slope < 4%. Riffles are generally characterized by the occurrence of small ripples, waves, and eddies, which are caused by small hydraulic jumps over rough bed material;

·         Run:     moderately shallow reach with non-turbulent water, no major flow obstructions and little to no surface agitation;

·         Pool:     aquatic habitat with a gradient less than 1 % that is generally deeper and wider than the habitat directly upstream and downstream;

 

2.       Typical water depth;

3.       Substrate composition (substrates were determined by probing the creek bottoms with a stadia rod and scooping sediments, and visual observation where possible);

4.       General species composition of EAV and SAV.

Areal coverage was described as:

·         Sparse (<25%);

·         Moderately Abundant (25 to 50%);

·         Abundant (51 to 75%);

·         Dense (>75%).

Species composition and areal coverage of the SAV were documented when observed.  However, mapping SAV was not a primary goal of this investigation because visibility into the water column was limited by high turbidity.  Depth measurements were periodically taken to gain a general understanding of channel depth.

Riparian habitat was described using the following:

1.       General composition, distribution, and structure of tree, shrub, vine, and herbaceous species;

2.       Adjacent land use.

 

3.0     RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

3.1         Tonawanda Creek

For purposes of this report, Tonawanda Creek (Figure 3.1-1, 3.1-2, Photo 1, and Photo 2) has two distinct segments: the Barge Canal, which starts at the confluence with the upper Niagara River and extends 11.6 miles upstream, and a segment that extends from the Barge Canal to Route 78 (Transit Road).  The habitat of the 11.6 miles of Tonawanda Creek that is part of the Barge Canal has been altered by dredging to maintain a uniform canal width, depth, and slope and by flow diversions during the navigation season (generally the first week of May through the last week of October) that reverse the flow in the creek (URS et al. 2005c).  The predominant aquatic habitat type of Tonawanda Creek was a highly turbid run with a bed composed of silty-muck substrates.  Measured depths ranged between 2.3 and 18 feet.  However, the segment upstream of the Barge Canal was shallower (e.g., measured depths ranged from 2.3 to 12.1 feet) than the Barge Canal (e.g., measured depths ranged from 3.6 to 18 feet).  The increased depth downstream of the confluence with the Barge Canal is attributed to the dredging that occurs to ensure boat passage through the New York State Erie (Barge) Canal system.

The spatial extent of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds could not be determined in Tonawanda Creek due to the highly turbid water.  However, SAV was documented when it was encountered and easily observable.  The two species that were observed included Eurasian water milfoil and coontail, and their areal coverage was moderately abundant (25 to 50%).

Two riffle habitats were located upstream of the confluence with the Barge Canal.  The uppermost riffle was the larger of the two, was about 200 feet long, and was located approximately 2.5 miles upstream of the Barge Canal  (Photo 3).  The water depth was relatively shallow (e.g., less than one foot) and the gradient was steeper than the adjacent runs.  The bed was composed of small cobble substrates.  The second riffle, located approximately 2 miles upstream of the Barge Canal, was approximately 100 feet long.  The bed consisted of small to large sized cobble substrates and the water was approximately two feet deep.

A deep emergent marsh dominated by a monoculture of water willow was mapped approximately 0.6 miles upstream of the confluence with the Barge Canal (Photo 4). The area was relatively shallow (2.3 feet), was about 160 feet long, and had substrates that ranged in size from silt to large cobbles (predominately silt and sand).  EAV areal coverage in this marsh area was considered abundant (70 %).  Two additional emergent marshes (Photo 5) each about 250 feet long and 20 to 40 feet wide and comprised primarily of narrow-leaf cattail were observed along the creek bank approximately 4.6 miles downstream of the confluence with the Barge Canal.  These patches of EAV were approximately 600 feet apart from one another and located along the west bank.  The water depth was relatively shallow (3.6 feet) and the substrates were composed of silt and muck.

Riparian vegetation was characterized as northern succession hardwood forest.  Predominant tree species included: Norway maple, black walnut, green ash, basswood, cottonwood, silver maple, weeping willow, and crack willow.  Predominant shrubs and vines included riverbank grape, gray dogwood, black raspberry, willow, green ash, and smooth sumac.

A significant riparian habitat boundary was observed near the confluence with the Barge Canal.  Upstream of the Barge Canal, the riparian zone was densely covered by riparian vegetation, was relatively unaltered by human activities, and had few manmade structures (i.e., homes, boat docks, etc.).  Downstream of the Barge Canal, the riparian zone and shoreline was significantly more altered by human activities than the portion of the creek upstream of the Barge Canal.  Land use generally consisted of more residential properties, parkland, mowed lawns, and manmade structures (e.g., boat docks, sheet piling, etc.).  Commercial land use was most intense near the Robinson Road Bridge, and from Delaware Street to the confluence with the Niagara River.

3.2         Tributaries to Tonawanda Creek

There are five tributaries to Tonawanda Creek that were examined as part of this study.  These included Mud Creek, Ransom Creek, Black Creek, Bull Creek, and Sawyer Creek.  Aquatic and riparian habitats were mapped at a total of 16 road crossings (intersections of the tributaries and roads).

Mud Creek

Aquatic and riparian habitats were examined and mapped at the intersection of Mud Creek and Transit Road (Route 78).  The aquatic habitat consisted of a somewhat turbid run with silt, gravel, and cobble substrates.  SAV coverage was dense and included coontail, curly leaf pondweed, and sago pondweed.  EAV species included broad-leaf cattail and soft-stem bulrush.  Riparian vegetation consisted of successional shrubland with several eastern cottonwood and green ash trees, crack willow and silky dogwood shrubs, and riverbank grape vines.  Riparian herbaceous species included mugwort, teasel, Queen Anne’s lace, and ragweed.  With the exception of Transit Road, the riparian zone next to this road crossing was relatively undeveloped (Photo 6).

Ransom Creek

For Ransom Creek, aquatic and terrestrial habitats were examined at four road crossings.  From downstream to upstream, these included Tonawanda Creek Road, Hopkins Road, New Road, and a road in a housing subdivision (Photo 7 and Photo 8).  The aquatic habitats at these road crossings consisted of three runs (Tonawanda Creek Road, Hopkins Road, and the subdivision road) with silt substrates and one riffle (New Road) with silt and gravel substrates.  In general, SAV coverage was moderate and the dominant species included Eurasian water milfoil and sago pondweed.  No EAV was observed in these areas.  The riparian zones consisted of successional northern hardwood forest with the tree stratum composed of eastern cottonwood, green ash, and crack willow.  Shrubs and vines included crack willow, gray dogwood, green ash, staghorn sumac, and riverbank grape, while the riparian herbaceous stratum was composed primarily of purple loosestrife and reed canary grass.

Black Creek

Aquatic and riparian habitats associated with Black Creek were mapped at the Smith Road crossing.  The aquatic habitat consisted of a run with silt and small cobble substrates.  SAV included curly leaf pondweed and Eurasian water milfoil.  In addition, the bed was covered with filamentous green algae.  No EAV was observed.  Riparian habitat was successional hardwood forest composed of American elm and green ash trees, green ash shrubs and saplings, and an herbaceous stratum of purple loosestrife and false nettle.  In addition, the riparian zone adjacent to this road crossing was undeveloped (Photo 9).

Bull Creek

Aquatic and riparian habitats associated with Bull Creek were mapped at five road crossings.  From downstream to upstream, these included two crossings at Town Line Road, one crossing at Loveland Road, a third crossing at Town Line Road, and one crossing at Aiken Road (Photo 10).  The aquatic habitats observed at these road crossings included one pool with silt substrate (Aiken Road), three runs with large cobble, silt, and muck substrates (at the three Town Line Road crossings), and one riffle with large cobble substrates (Loveland Road).  No SAV was observed at any of the road crossings.  Several patches of EAV were observed and the predominant species was common arrowhead.  Possible evidence of the influence of water level fluctuations in the Upper Niagara River and/or flow reversal for navigation in the Barge Canal was observed and included water flowing upstream rather than downstream toward Tonawanda Creek.

Riparian habitats at these road crossings were relatively undeveloped and consisted of successional northern hardwood forest.  The tree stratum was composed of American elm, green ash, willow sp., box elder, red oak, swamp white oak, and silver maple, while the shrub and vine stratum included green ash, gray and red-osier dogwood, hawthorn sp., and river bank grape.  The herbaceous stratum included reed canary grass, purple loosestrife, and purple-stemmed aster.

Sawyer Creek

Aquatic and riparian habitats associated with Sawyer Creek were mapped at five road crossings.  From downstream to upstream, these included Lockport Avenue, Shawnee Road, Delmer Drive, a business driveway between Schultz Road and Nash Road, and Nash Road.  Aquatic habitats at the Lockport Avenue, Shawnee Road, and Delmer Drive crossings consisted of runs with silt and muck substrates, and pools with silt and muck substrates at the Nash Road crossing and driveway crossing.  In general, SAV coverage was moderate and consisted of duckweed, sago pondweed, Eurasian water milfoil, and wild celery.  Extensive EAV growth was observed along the creek segment that parallels Niagara Falls Boulevard and included purple loosestrife, water willow, and narrow leaf cattail.  In addition, filamentous green algae were common within this segment.  This segment was highly channelized and was functioning more like an emergent wetland than a stream due to the extensive EAV growth and the lack of discernible flow (Photo 11 and Photo 12).  This segment possibly also functions as a roadside ditch due to its proximity to Niagara Falls Boulevard.  Possible evidence of the influence of Niagara River water levels and/or flow reversal for navigation in the Barge Canal was observed just upstream of the confluence of Sawyer and Tonawanda Creeks (water flowing upstream rather than downstream).

Riparian habitat along the segment of Sawyer Creek from the confluence with Tonawanda Creek to Niagara Falls Boulevard consisted of Successional Northern Hardwood forest.  Tree, shrub, and vine species included Norway maple, green ash, box elder, weeping willow, crack willow, silver maple, eastern cottonwood, staghorn sumac, dodder, riverbank grape, and Virginia creeper.  The most common plant in the herbaceous layer was reed canary grass.  Riparian habitat along the segment that parallels Niagara Falls Boulevard was composed of successional shrubland, old-field, and mowed lawn.  Some trees, shrubs, and vines were observed and included Norway maple, green ash, box elder, willow sp., silver maple, staghorn sumac, and riverbank grape.  Reed canary grass, fescue sp., Canada blue grass, crown vetch, and bird’s foot trefoil were the most common plants in the herbaceous layer.

3.3         Ellicott Creek

The aquatic and riparian habitat of Ellicott Creek varied throughout the investigation area (Figure 3.3-1 and 3.3-2).  Flood control and dredging operations have altered the creek’s natural habitat.  Both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and local government entities have made channel improvements consisting of deepening and widening the stream channel and construction of diversion channels to alleviate flooding (URS et al. 2005c). The predominant aquatic habitat type of Ellicott Creek was a highly turbid run with silty-muck substrates; however, the channel width, sinuosity and depth varied between the dredged portion and non-dredged portion of the creek.  Riparian vegetation varied along the bank due to land use changes and was composed of northern successional hardwood forest species, native and ornamental shrubs, and mowed fields/lawns.  Commercial land use was greater downstream of Twin Cities Memorial Highway and there were numerous docks, homes, and sheetpiles/retaining walls along the shoreline.  Measured run depths ranged between 1.6 and 6.2 feet.  Depths in the dredged bypass channels were not measured.  It appeared that water depths were greater in the dredged portion of Ellicott Creek than in the undredged upstream main-stem.  SAV was difficult to map due to the high turbidity; however, it was occasionally observed and mapped.

A relatively large riffle (Photo 13), approximately 6.9 miles from the mouth, was located at the estimated upstream extent (e.g., Millersport Highway), which extended approximately 1,200 feet downstream of the Millersport Highway. The average depth of this riffle was approximately one foot and the bed was composed of substrates that ranged in size from sand to large cobble.  The riparian vegetation largely consisted of mowed lawn with few trees (box elder and silver maple) and shrubs (dogwood).  Purple loosestrife and reed canary grass were observed along the stream banks.  This riffle has a significant slope and is thought to represent the upstream extent of influence of Niagara River water levels on Ellicott Creek water levels.

The adjacent downstream aquatic habitat type was a run, which contained silt and sand substrates with an approximate depth of three feet. The run extended from the end of the riffle to approximately 900 feet downstream of the John James Audubon Parkway.  The riparian vegetation was characterized as northern successional hardwood forest and tree species largely consisted of box elder, green ash and crack willow.  Shrub species included crack willow, dogwood, and riverbank grape.  Two species of EAV, purple loosestrife and narrow leaf cattail, were observed along the creek shoreline and a moderately dense SAV bed, dominated by slender naiad, was observed beneath the water surface.

A significant change in riparian vegetation was observed approximately 900 feet downstream of the John James Audubon Parkway.  In this reach, which extended another 2400 feet downstream, the riparian landscape was primarily composed of mowed lawns with few trees.  Land use was more urban and there was a small area devoted to a recreational trail.  The dominant plant species on the creek banks were purple loosestrife and narrow leaf cattail.  These riparian conditions continued for approximately 2400 feet until the riparian vegetation changed back to successional northern hardwood forest. This segment located approximately 3300 feet downstream of the John James Audubon Parkway, extended another 3400 feet downstream, and represented the most natural riparian habitat within the Ellicott Creek portion of the investigation area.  Within the riparian zone was a dense stand of trees composed of box elder, willow, green ash, and crack willow, and green ash and crack willow shrubs. The riparian vegetation provided significant shade to this segment of Ellicott Creek.

Further downstream (e.g., approximately 1600 feet upstream of the Lockport Expressway), Ellicott Creek divided into two channels.  The northernmost channel was similar to the adjacent upstream habitat whereas the southernmost channel was more channelized with less riparian cover.  The aquatic habitat consisted of a highly turbid run with silty-muck substrates.  There was a grass buffer between the creek and the surrounding forest.  This buffer ranged from 20-60 feet in width.  In addition, narrow leaf cattail, purple loosestrife, and Japanese knotweed were common along the shore, as well as shrubs including dogwood, willow, smooth sumac, and riverbank grape.  The surrounding forest consisted of weeping willow, green ash, box elder, silver maple, cottonwood, and American basswood trees.

Ellicott Creek divided into two channels again directly downstream of the Lockport Expressway, which is approximately 500 feet downstream of the confluence of the aforementioned channels.  Both channels were aquatic run habitat types with silty-muck substrates.  The northern channel was more channelized, deeper, and the adjacent land use was primarily commercial.  The riparian zone was predominately grass and had few tree species.  Purple loosestrife, common reed, and riverbank grape were observed along the immediate shore.  The southern channel was more sinuous and contained a higher density of trees in the riparian zone.  Vegetation in the riparian zone included willow, box elder, and green ash trees, and gray and red-osier dogwood shrubs.  The areal coverage of SAV was moderate and included sago pondweed and coontail.  From approximately 1700 feet downstream of Sweet Home Road to the confluence with the northern channel, the water surface was coated with a green algal film.

Downstream of the confluence of these two channels, the aquatic habitat was similar to the northern channel; however, the riparian zone contained a mix of mowed lawns and successional forest.  Tree species included weeping willow, green ash, box elder, silver maple, cottonwood, and basswood.  Shrubs and vines included gray and red-osier dogwood, willow, smooth sumac, and riverbank grape.  Common herbaceous plants included narrow leaf cattail, purple loosetrife, and Japanese knotweed.  Commercial land use of the riparian zone was more prevalent downstream of Twin Cities Memorial Highway and continued to the confluence with Tonawanda Creek.

 

Figure 3.1-1

Tonawanda Creek Habitat

 

Figure 3.1-2

Tonawanda Creek Habitat

 

Photo 1

Tonawanda Creek - Downstream view from Barge Canal

 

 

Photo 2

Tonawanda Creek - Typical Run Habitat Upstream of Confluence with Barge Canal

 

 

Photo 3

Tonawanda Creek - First Riffle Habitat Downstream of Route 78 (Transit Road)

 

This photo was taken during the winter as part of another study.

 

Photo 4

Tonawanda Creek - Facing Downstream with a View of the Deep Emergent Marsh Vegetation

 

 

Photo 5

Tonawanda Creek - View of EAV Stand in Run Habitat

 

 

Photo 6

Mud Creek - Facing Downstream with View of Run Habitat just Downstream of Transit Road Crossing

 

 

Photo 7

Ransom Creek - Upstream View

 

 

Photo 8

Ransom Creek - Downstream View

 

 

Photo 9

Black Creek – Downstream View

 

 

Photo 10

Bull Creek – Upstream View

 

 

Photo 11

Sawyer Creek – Downstream View

 

 

Photo 12

Sawyer Creek – Downstream View

 

 

Figure 3.3-1

Ellicott Creek Habitat

 

Figure 3.3-2

Ellicott Creek Habitat

 

Photo 13

Ellicott Creek - Facing Upstream with a View of the Riffle Downstream of Millersport Highway

 

 

4.0     CONCLUSIONS

1.       The aquatic habitats in the lower reaches of Ellicott and Tonawanda Creek are relatively uniform (e.g., turbid runs) and have been dredged.  The upper reaches are not dredged, are relatively more sinuous, and have greater habitat variability (e.g., runs with the occasional riffle);

2.       The riparian habitats of Ellicott and Tonawanda Creeks consist of northern successional hardwood forest species or mowed lawns.  The riparian zones along the upper reaches of both creeks are relatively undeveloped, while the riparian zones in the lower reaches are more developed (e.g., more houses, boat docks, boat launches, parks, commercial development, sheet pile bulkheads);

3.       Data reported by Stantec et al. (2005) along cross-sectional transects are representative of the general aquatic and riparian habitat characteristics of the lower reaches of Tonawanda and Ellicott Creeks.

 

REFERENCES

R1019216262 \ Text Reference: Arend 1999 \ Arend, K.  1999.  Macrohabitat Classification.  In: Aquatic Habitat Assessment: Common Methods.  ed. M.B. Bain and N.J. Stevenson.  Bethesda, MD: American Fisheries Society.  pp. 75-93.

R1019215381 \ Text Reference: Stantec et al. 2005 \ Stantec Consulting Services, Inc., URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Engineering & Environmental Consulting, LLC.  2005.  Effect of Water Level and Flow Fluctuations on Terrestrial and Aquatic Habitat, prep. for the New York Power Authority.

R1019216119 \ Text Reference: URS et al. 2005 \ URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Engineering & Environmental Consulting, LLC.  2005c.  Upper Niagara River Tributary Backwater Study (Draft).  Prep. for the New York Power Authority.

R1019215119 \ Text Reference: URS et al. 2005 \ URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Environmental & Engineering Consulting, LLC.  2005a.  Niagara River Water Level and Flow Fluctuation Study.  Prep. for the New York Power Authority.

R1019215834 \ Text Reference: URS et al. 2005 \ URS Corporation, Gomez and Sullivan Engineers, P.C., and E/PRO Engineering & Environmental Consulting, LLC.  2005b.  Ecological Condition of Gill, Fish, and Cayuga Creeks .  Prep. for the New York Power Authority.

 

Appendix A – Scientific and Common Plant Names

Scientific Name

Common Name

Acer platanoides

Norway maple

Juglans nigra

Black walnut

Fraxinus pennsyulvanica

Green ash

Tilia americana

American basswood

Populus deltiodes

Eastern cottonwood

Acer saccharinum

Silver maple

Salix babylonica

Weeping willow

Salix fragilis

Crack willow

Vitis riparia

River-bank grape

Cornus racemosa

Gray dogwood

Rubus occidentalis

Black raspberry

Salix spp.

Willow

Rhus glabra

Smooth sumac

Cornus amomum

Silky dogwood

Rhus typhina

Staghorn sumac

Ulmus americana

American elm

Acer negundo

Boxelder

Quercus rubra

Red oak

Quercus bicolor

Swamp white oak

Cornus stolonifera

Red-osier dogwood

Crataegus spp.

Hawthorn

Acer platanoides

Norway maple

Cuscuta gronovii

Dodder

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Virginia creeper

Ludwigia leptocarpa

Water willow

Typha angustifolia

Narrow-leaf cattail

Typha latifolia

Broad-leaf cattail

Artemisia vulgaris

Mugwort

Dipsacus sylvestris

Teasel

Daucus carota

Queen Anne’s lace

Ambrosia artemisiifolia

Ragweed

Lythrum salicaria

Purple loosestrife

Phalaris arundinacea

Reed canary grass

Boehmeria cylindrical

False nettle

Aster puniceus

Purple-stemmed aster

Festuca spp.

Fescue

Poa compressa

Canada blue grass

Coronilla varia

Crown vetch

Lotus corniculatus

Bird’s foot trefoil

Polygonum cuspidatum

Japanese knotweed

Sagittaria latifolia  

Common arrowhead

Myriophyllum spicatum

Eurasian watermilfoil

Ceratophyllum demersum

Coontail

Potamogeton crispus

Curly leaf pondweed

Potamogeton pectinatus

Sago pondweed

Lemna spp.

Duckweed

Apium graveolens

Wild celery

Najas gracillima

Slender naiad