Niagara Power Project FERC No. 2216

 

SURFACE WATER QUALITY OF THE NIAGARA RIVER AND ITS U.S. TRIBUTARIES

 

HTML Format.  Text only

 

Prepared for: New York Power Authority 

Prepared by: URS Corporation and Gomez and Sullivan Enigeers, P.C.

 

August 2005

 

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Copyright © 2005 New York Power Authority

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

This is the Draft of the NYPA Niagara Power Project relicensing report for Issue 30, Surface Water Quality of the Niagara River and U.S. Tributaries.  The objectives of this investigation are to: (1) determine if and how Project operations affect dissolved oxygen and turbidity of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries and Lewiston Reservoir; (2) describe sources of turbidity in the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir; and (3) document and determine if surface water quality of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir complies with New York State Water Quality Standards for surface water.  The original objectives of this study included describing sources of sedimentation, however the Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation Assessment Study (Baird 2004) is examining sources of sedimentation and related erosion sites in the River and tributaries, so that specific issue will not be discussed here. 

It should be noted that data collected for the Surface Water Quality study will be used to address other environmental issues associated with Project relicensing (in other reports).  Conversely, this study will use water quality data collected as part of other monitoring programs, both related and unrelated to relicensing of the Project to assess the overall surface water quality.  Relevant data collected from other NYPA studies and the associated analyses and conclusions will also be referenced in this report.  These studies include Issue 21 – Ecological Condition of Fish, Gill and Cayuga Creeks (URS et al. 2004a), Issue 23 – Water Level and Flow Fluctuation Study (URS et al. 2003b), Issue 25 – Effect of Project Operations on Water Temperatures (URS 2004), Issue 26 – Groundwater (URS et al. 2004b), Issue 42/46 – Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation Assessment Study (Baird 2004), Issue 50 – Buckhorn Marsh Fish Study (NYPA and Gomez and Sullivan 2004), and the Tributary Backwater Study (URS et al. 2004c).  Additionally, sediment quality in the upper Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir and the lower Niagara River was investigated by NYPA in 2002 (ESI 2003) in which sediment samples were analyzed for multiple constituents, including the 18 priority toxic pollutants identified in the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan. 

 

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This report documents the surface water quality of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries and the Lewiston Reservoir.  In addition to the upper and lower Niagara River and Lewiston Reservoir, the tributaries to the Niagara River studied included:  Cayuga Creek, Gill Creek, Fish Creek, Tonawanda Creek, Ellicott Creek, Burnt Ship Creek, Woods Creek, Gun Creek, Spicer Creek and Big Sixmile Creek. 

The objectives of this investigation are to: (1) determine if and how Project operations affect dissolved oxygen and turbidity of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries and Lewiston Reservoir; (2) describe sources of turbidity in the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir; and (3) document and determine if surface water quality of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir complies with New York State Water Quality Standards for surface water.  The original objectives of this study included describing sources of sedimentation; however the Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation Assessment Study (Baird 2004) is examining sources of sedimentation and related erosion sites in the River and tributaries, and so that specific issue will not be discussed here.  Refer to (ESI 2003) for an analysis of sedimentation in Lewiston Reservoir. 

It should be noted that separating the effects of Project operations from other factors is difficult, particularly the effects of water level fluctuations.  Water level fluctuations in the Niagara River are caused by a number of natural and manmade factors which are interrelated and dynamic.  Natural factors include flow surges, wind, ice conditions, and regional and long-term precipitation patterns that affect lake levels, while manmade factors include regulation of Niagara Falls flows for scenic purposes, operation of power plants on the Canadian side of the river, and operation of the Niagara Power Project.  Because the water level in the Niagara River at any location at any time is a complex function of natural and manmade factors, distinguishing the exact amount of water level fluctuation attributable to each factor is difficult. 

The study objectives were achieved in several ways.  To document the existing conditions, a literature review of relevant water quality data was conducted.  There is extensive information available on the past and present water quality conditions on the main Niagara River, as well as clear direction on how governmental agencies intend on improving water quality.  In addition, recent water quality studies associated with NPP relicensing have been used to assess current conditions and to identify factors that could affect water quality conditions in the study area.  During the relicensing process, various stakeholders have indicated specific concerns over the potential effects of water levels fluctuations on turbidity and dissolved oxygen.  The data collected in 2003 specifically for this study consisted of continuous water level data in conjunction with discrete turbidity and dissolved oxygen data under various weather conditions. 

To supplement the water level, turbidity and dissolved oxygen data collected for this study, NYPA conducted other investigations that were useful in describing existing surface water quality conditions.  These include investigations of: erosion and sedimentation in the Project area, groundwater flow patterns and their effect on surface water quality, the effect of water level fluctuations on water temperatures, and the ecological condition of Gill, Fish and Cayuga Creeks.  Also, data collected by New York and Canadian environmental agencies were used to assess the current water quality conditions of the water bodies listed above. 

A review of the surface water quality data in the literature as well as the data collected in 2003 reveal that the water quality of the upper and lower Niagara River has improved greatly over the past 20 years.  Likewise, the current surface water quality conditions in the Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir and U.S. tributaries are generally good.  However, problems associated with persistent organic contaminants in sediment and fish tissue in the Niagara River are still prevalent.  These problems have impaired some of the designated uses of the target water bodies in this study. 

From the data collected in 2003, there does not appear to be any negative effects due to U.S./Canadian power generation on the surface water quality of the upper and lower Niagara River and Lewiston Reservoir.  Data also indicate that there are no negative effects on turbidity in the U.S. tributaries of the upper Niagara River due to U.S./Canadian power generation.  The study documented that dissolved oxygen levels in some U.S. tributaries did not meet the state standard at times.  From the data collected it appears a number of factors may be contributing to localized dissolved oxygen suppression including: high background levels of turbidity which may lead to an oxygen demand, poor quality source water in tributaries, stormwater discharges and non-point source runoff, and groundwater influx. 

Turbidity in the main channel of the upper Niagara River is predominantly related to weather and inflow conditions from Lake Erie.  Localized areas of elevated turbidity can be present in the upper Niagara River due to outflow from highly turbid tributaries particularly after runoff events.  One possible source of turbidity in the upper Niagara River may be erosion.  The primary factors for observed bank erosion areas on the upper Niagara River are most likely waves (wind and boat-generated) and currents (Baird 2004) and not water level fluctuation due to U.S./Canadian power generation.  The lower Niagara River was relatively clear and there are no apparent turbidity effects from the Lewiston Reservoir/RMNPP discharges.  The data collected in 2003 shows that turbidity levels in the Lewiston Reservoir are low and not related to water level fluctuations.  There are combined sewer overflows (CSOs) as well as nonpoint sources that may affect the turbidity in the upper and lower Niagara River during wet weather events.  Like the upper Niagara River, the primary factors for observed bank erosion areas along the lower Niagara River downstream of RMNPP are most likely waves (wind and boat-generated) and currents and not water level fluctuations (Baird 2004). 

The lower sections of tributaries to the upper Niagara River were influenced by water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool.  The magnitude of daily water level fluctuations appears directly related to the creeks’ spatial relation to the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool in the upper Niagara River.  Sources of turbidity in the U.S. tributaries primarily include (1) stream bank erosion; (2) stormwater runoff from watershed areas; and, (3) point and non-point discharges to a stream.  The causes of erosion can include high flow runoff, waves, water level fluctuations, ice, debris, groundwater flow, weathering, and unstable banks.  Turbidity data and findings from Baird 2004 indicate that Niagara River water level fluctuations do not affect the turbidity in the U.S. tributaries.  Although erosion in the U.S. tributaries may contribute to creek turbidity, the primary factors causing erosion are not water level fluctuations.  According to Baird 2004, the primary factor causing shoreline erosion in the navigable U.S. tributaries to the Niagara River is boat waves and in the non-navigable U.S. tributaries is high velocity flows that occur during the spring and following severe rainfall events.  Summer and fall flow conditions, and any water level fluctuations that occur during these periods, do not appear to accelerate erosion (Baird 2004).  Also, during wet weather, the turbidity levels in tributaries are most certainly affected by point source discharges from CSOs and stormwater outfalls and/or nonpoint source runoff in their respective watersheds.  The characteristics of the surrounding land use and soil type are determinant factors contributing to nonpoint source runoff.  These factors seem to have the greatest effect on turbidity levels in tributaries such as Spicer and Gun Creeks, where erodable soil types are prevalent. 

The portions of Fish and Gill Creek that were sampled for this study are not influenced by water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool and hence the water quality in those portions of these streams is not affected by water level fluctuations.  However, the water quality in these streams may be affected by the presence of Lewiston Reservoir and its influence on groundwater flow patterns.  The groundwater inflow does not have a negative effect on the turbidity levels in these streams.  Water quality in Gill Creek is positively affected by flow augmentation from Lewiston Reservoir. 

In both the upper and lower Niagara River, dissolved oxygen levels maintain high standards and are not affected by U.S./Canadian power generation.  In the upper Niagara River, there is no apparent effect on the dissolved oxygen levels due to water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool.  The Lewiston Reservoir does not stratify with regards to temperature or dissolved oxygen due to the high flushing rates caused by the continuous pumping of water into the reservoir for storage and the outflow for generation.  Therefore, dissolved oxygen levels in the lower Niagara River do not decrease due to outflow from RMNPP.  In the lower Niagara River upstream of the tailrace, dissolved oxygen levels are good due, in large part, to the turbulence of the river in the Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole rapids (as well as Niagara Falls). 

Determining the effects of Niagara River water level fluctuations on the dissolved oxygen levels near the mouths of tributaries is difficult because the dissolved oxygen readings were discrete measurements as opposed to continuous monitoring and the dissolved oxygen concentration in the creeks can be affected by many factors.  These factors include loadings from point and nonpoint sources, land use, abundance of aquatic plants or algae, the amount of turbulence (surface to air mixing), water temperature, the organic sediment loading into the stream, and the influence of Niagara River water levels on tributary water levels.  Reduced velocities in the tributaries may be caused by the influence of upper Niagara River water levels on creek water levels.  This phenomenon is not unusual at the mouths of tributaries to large rivers.  Likewise, water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River can have a positive effect on tributary dissolved oxygen levels when water from the river (which generally contains higher dissolved oxygen than the tributaries) mixes with lower reaches of the creeks.

The Niagara River tributaries whose dissolved oxygen concentrations did not meet the standard of 4.0 mg/L for Class B and C waters at some point during this study were Cayuga Creek in the area of its confluence with Bergholtz Creek; Burnt Ship Creek near its mouth; Woods Creek (upstream and downstream portions); Gun Creek (upstream and downstream portions); and downstream portions of Spicer Creek.

Gill Creek and Fish Creek in the area of Lewiston Reservoir were positively affected with regard to stream dissolved oxygen levels.  Lewiston Reservoir water is provided to Gill Creek in the summer months keeping it well oxygenated.  In addition to flow augmentation to Gill Creek, flows in Gill Creek and Fish Creek are recharged by groundwater, which keeps stream temperatures relatively cool thereby increasing the streams potential to hold dissolved oxygen. 

Results of the 2003 surface water chemistry analyses indicate that the water quality in the upper Niagara River in the area of the intakes is good, with all parameters meeting the standard for Class A-S waters in New York State.  Based on those results, there are no apparent negative effects on the surface water quality of the upper Niagara River due to U.S./Canadian power generation. 

The analytical results from the surface water samples collected from two locations in the Lewiston Reservoir in 2003 demonstrate that the surface water quality of the Lewiston Reservoir is similar to the upper Niagara River.  Concentrations of metals, nutrients and biological parameters in samples collected from the reservoir all met the respective water quality standards for Class A-S waters.  Trace quantities of monomethyl mercury were detected in the sample collected from the east end of the reservoir on October 9, 2003.  The results of the laboratory analyses for organic contaminants revealed all parameters were below the quantitation limit for these two sites, except for both samples collected in November from the reservoir where trace quantities of the pesticide delta-BHC were estimated.   Possible sources of delta-BHC in reservoir water samples are upper Niagara River water, airborne transport of pesticides resulting from area application for agricultural purposes, and groundwater in the City of Niagara Falls transported via the conduit drainage system and forebay.

The reservoir does recharge the surrounding bedrock which provides inflow to both Fish and Gill creeks as they flow by the reservoir (via the rock cut channels).  For both creeks, the influent groundwater supplements whatever surface water originates from upstream areas.  For Gill Creek, all parameters that were sampled for in 2003 except total dissolved solids were in compliance with NYS surface water quality standards for Class C waters.  Volatile organics, semivolatile organics, pesticides, PCBs and dioxins were all non-detect in surface water samples collected from Gill Creek.  For Fish Creek, the analytical surface water results report a high level of total coliforms from one sample.  All other parameters were within water quality standards.  Concentrations for both TDS and coliforms  were much lower in reservoir samples indicating that the higher values in the creeks are not related to reservoir operations.

 

ABBREVIATIONS

Agencies

CHS                 Canadian Hydrographic Service

EC                   Environment Canada

FEMA              Federal Emergency Management Agency

FERC               Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

IJC                   International Joint Commission

INBC               International Niagara Board of Control

NOAA             National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NYSDEC         New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

NYSDOH        New York State Department of Health

OMOE             Ontario Ministry of the Environment

USEPA            United States Environmental Protection Agency

USGS               United States Geological Survey

Units of Measure

C                      Celsius, Centigrade

cfs                    cubic feet per second

cm                    centimeter

F                      Fahrenheit

gpm                  gallons per minute

L                      liter

m                     milli (prefix for one-thousandth)

μ                      micro (prefix for one-millionth)

μg                    microgram

mg                    milligram

mgd                  million gallons per day

ml                     milliliter

NTU                Nephelometric Turbidity Unit

ppb                   parts per billion

ppm                  parts per million

USLSD            U.S. Lake Survey Datum 1935

Regulatory

AOC                Area of Concern

CFR                 Code of Federal Regulations

NPDES            National Pollution Discharge Elimination System

SPDES             State Pollution Discharge Elimination System

RAP                 Remedial Action Plan

Environmental

BOD                biochemical oxygen demand

DO                   dissolved oxygen

PAH                polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon

PCB                 polychlorinated biphenyl

SAV                 submerged aquatic vegetation

TDS                 total dissolved solids

TSS                  total suspended solids

Miscellaneous

ALP                 Alternative Licensing Procedure

CGIP                Chippawa-Grass Island Pool

CSO                 Combined Sewer Overflow

FSCR               First Stage Consultation Report

LPGP               Lewiston Pump Generating Plant

NRTMP           Niagara River Toxics Management Plan

NPP                 Niagara Power Project

NYPA              New York Power Authority

NYS                 New York State

OPG                 Ontario Power Generation

RIBS                Rotating Intensive Basin Study

RMNPP           Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant

WWTP             wastewater treatment plant

 

1.0     INTRODUCTION

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) is engaged in the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project (NPP) in Lewiston, Niagara County, New York.  The present operating license of the plant expires in August 2007.  As part of its preparation for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project, NYPA is developing information related to the ecological, engineering, recreational, cultural, and socioeconomic aspects of the Project.  This report is part of the relicensing effort and presents the results of surface water quality monitoring conducted from May through November 2003. 

The study area for this work is the Lewiston Reservoir and the Niagara River Corridor from the Peace Bridge to the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario, and the U.S. tributaries to the upper and lower Niagara River (Big Sixmile, Burnt Ship, Cayuga, Woods, Gun, Spicer, Gill, Fish, Tonawanda, and Ellicott Creeks).  The water quality survey consisted of discrete monitoring of dissolved oxygen and turbidity as well as continuous monitoring of surface water levels in the upper and lower Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir and U.S. tributaries. 

This report is organized as follows.  This introductory section provides background on the NPP, identifies the objectives of this study and presents a physical description of each target water body.  One of the tasks for this study was to conduct a literature review of existing water quality information in the study area.  Section 2 provides an overview of this information and presents a summary of the water quality of the Niagara River based upon long-term monitoring programs conducted by U.S. and Canadian agencies.  The primary factors that have the potential to affect the quality of the surface water in the study area are discussed in Section 3.  Section 4 describes the data collection and analysis methods and Section 5 presents the results of the 2003 data collection effort as well as any other relevant water quality information obtained from the literature review.  A discussion of the factors affecting water quality conditions in each water body is the focus of Section 6, and Section 7 presents the study conclusions. 

1.1         Background

The 1,880-MW (firm capacity) 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.  Twin intakes are located approximately 2.6 miles above Niagara Falls.  Water entering these intakes is routed around the Falls via two large low-head conduits to a 1.8-billion-gallon 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 (RMNPP), 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 (LPGP).  Under non-peak-usage conditions (i.e., at night and on weekends), water is pumped from the forebay via the plant’s 12 pumps into the 22-billion-gallon 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 RMNPP and tailwater from the LPGP.  South of the forebay is a switchyard, which serves as the electrical interface between the Project and its service area.

For purposes of generating electricity from Niagara Falls, two seasons are recognized:  tourist season and non-tourist season.  By the 1950 Niagara River Water Diversion Treaty, at least 100,000 cfs must be allowed to flow over Niagara Falls during tourist season (April 1 – October 31) daytime hours, and at least 50,000 cfs at all other times.  Canada and the United States are entitled by international treaty to share equally the remaining available flow in the river for hydroelectric power production. 

NYPA studied water level and flow fluctuations from 1991-2002 (URS et al. 2003b).  From this study it was learned that water level fluctuations in both the upper and lower Niagara River are caused by a number of factors including U.S./Canadian power generation.  Other factors affecting water level and flow fluctuations include wind, natural flow variations and ice conditions, water levels of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and control of Niagara Falls flow for scenic purposes (URS et al. 2003b).  Water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool (CGIP), in the upper Niagara River are limited to 1.5 feet per day by an International Niagara Board of Control directive. 

During tourist season, water level fluctuations in the lower Niagara River (upstream of the RMNPP tailrace) from all causes are normally around 12 feet per day.  Most of this daily fluctuation is due to the change in the treaty-mandated control of flow over Niagara Falls.  Water level fluctuations downstream of the RMNPP tailrace are much less.  The average daily water level fluctuation 1.4 miles downstream of the RMNPP tailrace, during the 2003 tourist season, was approximately 1.44 feet.  The average daily water level fluctuation at this location during the 2002 tourist season was approximately 1.5 feet (URS et al. 2003b).

Operations of the NPP normally result in water level fluctuations in the Lewiston Reservoir of 3-18 feet per day, and as much as 36 feet per week (URS et al. 2003b).  At night, when electricity demand is low, the Lewiston units operate as pumps, transporting water from the forebay up to the plant’s reservoir.  During the daytime, when electricity use peaks, the Lewiston pumps are reversed and become generators, similar to those at the Moses plant.  In this way, the water can be used to produce electricity twice, increasing production and efficiency.

1.2         Purpose and Scope of Report

The objectives of this investigation are to: (1) determine if and how Project operations affect dissolved oxygen, and turbidity of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries and Lewiston Reservoir; (2) describe sources of turbidity in the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir; and (3) document and determine if surface water quality of the Niagara River, its U.S. tributaries, and Lewiston Reservoir complies with New York State Water Quality Standards for surface water.  Note the original objectives of this study included describing sources of sedimentation, however the Shoreline Erosion and Sedimentation Study (Baird 2004) is examining sources of sedimentation and related erosion sites in the River and tributaries, so that specific issue will not be discussed here.  Also, continuous water temperature data was collected from many of the same water level and dissolved oxygen/turbidity sites.  The reader is referred to the Water Temperature report (URS 2004) for the analysis of water temperatures.

During the Alternative Licensing Procedure (ALP) scoping process, there was concern over the effect of Project operations on surface water quality in the Project area.  Specific issues were raised regarding the effects of water level fluctuations on dissolved oxygen and turbidity; therefore, there is emphasis on the turbidity and dissolved oxygen dynamics in the study area in this report. 

Turbidity refers to how clear the water is.  The greater the amount of total suspended solids (TSS) in the water, the higher the measured turbidity.  In streams, there are 3 major types of particles that cause turbidity: algae, detritus (dead organic material), and silt (inorganic, or mineral, suspended sediment).  Sources of sediment in the Niagara River include Lake Erie, erosion within the river, discharge from tributaries, and point-source discharges.  Primary sources of sediment in the tributaries include non-point source runoff (agriculture fields, construction sites, and urban areas), point source discharges including stormwater and wastewater discharges, and stream bank erosion.  Water level fluctuations can affect the rate and the type of shoreline erosion, and whether it occurs at all (Baird 2004).  The erosion caused by water level fluctuations has the potential to increase suspended sediment in a stream thereby increasing turbidity levels.

Dissolved oxygen concentrations in freshwater are important to the health of aquatic communities because many aquatic organisms require oxygen to survive.  The dissolved oxygen concentration in a stream is affected by the presence of aquatic plants or algae, the amount of turbulence, water temperature, and the waste loading into the stream.  Where the air and water meet, the difference in concentration causes oxygen molecules in the air to dissolve into the water.  More oxygen dissolves into water when the surface is disturbed by wind or turbulence (i.e. rapids, waterfalls).  As waves or high velocities create more surface area, more diffusion can occur.  It is normal to observe daily variations in dissolved oxygen concentrations in streams because photosynthesis (which increases dissolved oxygen levels) occurs exclusively during daylight hours, while respiration and decomposition (which decrease dissolved oxygen levels) occur continuously.  Therefore dissolved oxygen concentrations may steadily decline overnight.  In lakes and reservoirs that stratify thermally, it is common to see low dissolved oxygen levels in the bottom layers of the water body during the summer.  This is caused by the lack of mixing of surface and bottom layers due to the thermal stratification and absence of light near the bottom, which prevents oxygen producing photosynthesis.  When organic matter decomposes, it is fed upon by aerobic bacteria.  In this process, organic matter is broken down and oxidized which in turn reduces dissolved oxygen levels.  Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), a measure of the quantity of oxygen used by microorganisms in the decomposition process, can also affect dissolved oxygen levels in the water. 

Another physical process that affects dissolved oxygen concentrations is the relationship between water temperature and gas saturation.  Cold water can hold more of any gas, in this case oxygen, than warmer water.  As water becomes warmer it can hold less and less dissolved oxygen.  So, during the summer months, the total amount of oxygen present may be limited by temperature.  Also, any mixing of water at the confluences of water bodies and the resulting temperature differences of these waters has the potential to affect dissolved oxygen levels in these mixing zones.  The water surface elevation of the Niagara River may influence the water surface elevations of its tributaries.  This may reduce stream velocities and consequently surface water to air mixing.  The deposition in these areas where velocities slow may result in a higher oxygen demand. 

1.3         Niagara River Drainage Basin

The study area for this work is the Lewiston Reservoir and the Niagara River Corridor from the Peace Bridge to the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario, and the U.S. tributaries in the upper Niagara River (Big Sixmile, Burnt Ship, Cayuga, Woods, Gun, Spicer, Gill, Fish, Tonawanda, and Ellicott Creeks).  These water bodies are located in Niagara and Erie Counties in western New York State. 

The study area is located within the Erie-Ontario Lake Plain physiographic province, which encompasses the relatively low, flat areas lying south of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  This area is described as containing east-west escarpments that were formed by the Onondaga Limestone and Lockport Dolomite.  The topography of this region has been modified by substantial glacial deposition of drumlin fields, recessional moraines and shoreline deposits (Isachsen et al. 1991).  Although orchards, vineyards, and vegetable farming are important locally, a large percentage of the agriculture is associated with dairy operations (USEPA 2000). 

A description of the physical characteristics such as drainage area, hydrology, and surrounding land use and soils for each of the targeted water bodies is presented in the following section.  Figure 1.3-1 displays the water bodies included in this study and Table 1.3-1 lists the streams and their respective drainage areas. 

1.3.1        Niagara River

The mainstem of the Niagara River is approximately 38 miles long and connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.  The river is divided by the cascades of Niagara Falls and is referred to within this report as the upper Niagara River and the lower Niagara River.  The collective drainage area at the mouth of the river in Youngstown, NY, is approximately 265,000 square miles and encompasses much of the north central United States and south central Canada, including four of the five Great Lakes.  Within New York State, the river drains about 2,300 square miles of Northern Appalachian Plateau and lake shore lowlands (NYSDEC 1997).  The mean annual flow at Fort Erie (based on 1991-2002 data), near the head of the river at the outlet of Lake Erie is approximately 213,000 cfs (URS et al. 2003b). 

At Grand Island, the river divides into the west channel, known as the Canadian or Chippawa Channel, and the east channel, known as the American or Tonawanda Channel.  The Chippawa Channel is approximately 11 miles long and varies in width from 2,000 to 4,000 feet.  The Chippawa Channel carries approximately 58% of total river flow.  The 15-mile-long Tonawanda Channel varies in width from 1,500 to 2,000 feet above Tonawanda Island.  Downstream of the island it varies in width from 1,500 to 4,000 feet, with water velocities of 2-3 fps.  At the north end of Grand Island, the channels unite to form the 3-mile-long Chippawa-Grass Island Pool (see Figure 1.3-1), at the downstream end of which is the International Control Structure.  This structure extends from the Canadian shoreline to the approximate midpoint of the river.  The Falls is located about 4,500 feet downstream of the control structure.

According to the most recent soil survey for Niagara County, soils along the upper Niagara River are classified as Canandaigua-Rynham-Rheinbeck from North Tonawanda to an area near the North Grand Island Bridge (Higgins et al. 1972).  These soils are described as deep, somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained soils having a dominantly medium textured to fine textured subsoil.  From the North Grand Island bridge to the RMNPP tailrace area along the lower Niagara River, the soils are Odessa-Lakemont-Ovid association.  The soils are described as deep, somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained soils having a fine textured or moderately fine textured subsoil that is dominantly reddish in color.  Downstream of the tailrace in the lower Niagara River, soils are either of the Rhinebeck-Ovid-Madalin association or Claverack-Cosad-Elnora association.  The former is similar to the Odessa-Lakemont-Ovid association (deep, somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained soils having a fine textured or moderately fine textured subsoil that is dominantly brown or olive in color).  The latter are deep, moderately well drained and somewhat poorly drained soils have a coarse textured subsoil, over clay or fine sand.  All soils in this area were formed in lake-laid sand, silt and clay. 

1.3.2        Lewiston Reservoir

Lewiston Reservoir is a 1,900-acre reservoir used for pumped water storage (22-billion-gallon capacity) for the Niagara Power Project.  The Niagara Power Project and the Lewiston Reservoir operate on a weekly cycle.  On Monday morning, the reservoir is at its highest water level and typically at its lowest on Thursday or Friday evening.  Each weekday, water is taken from storage during the daytime peak energy demand periods for power generation.  Consequently, the reservoir water level decreases.  Then each weekday night (during non-peak energy demand), the reservoir is partially refilled.  On the weekend, the reservoir is completely refilled.  Daily drawdown is normally 3-18 feet and weekly drawdown 11-36 feet, depending on the season and river flow.  Weekly drawdowns are typically greater during the tourist season (21-36 feet) than the non-tourist season (11-30 feet) because water levels are higher during the non-tourist season when storage in the lowest part of the reservoir is held in reserve to compensate for reduced diversion caused by ice problems (URS et al. 2003b).  Weekly drawdowns are also greater during low-flow periods than high-flow periods, as more water is rescheduled to generate electricity during peak demand periods.

It is important to note that NYPA’s water intakes on the upper Niagara have no control mechanisms for the diversion of water from the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool into the twin conduits that carry water to the Project forebay.  The volume of water diverted through the conduits is a direct function of the difference in surface water elevation between the pool and forebay.  Water that is pumped into Lewiston Reservoir is directly related to the quality of water in the upper Niagara River.  The majority of the reservoir is considered a low-flow surface water body, except for the area near the intake/outlet area of the LPGP.  Important features of the reservoir dike with respect to its ability to impound water include a clay core and bedrock grout curtain.  Most of the side slopes of the reservoir are lined with boulder-sized rip-rap and the bottom is exposed, in some areas, during the end of the week due to drawdown.

1.3.3        Cayuga Creek

Cayuga Creek begins in the Town of Lewiston and runs through the Tuscarora Nation.  The watershed encompasses 38.6 square miles (URS et al. 2004c) and the creek is 9.7 miles long.  The flow in the upstream reach of Cayuga Creek is intermittent with seasonal flow.  A pump house located on the creek just upstream of the Tuscarora lands is used to drain nearby agricultural fields during times of high water.  Residents of the Tuscarora Nation often refer to Cayuga Creek in that area as “State Ditch” due to the artificially channelized nature of the stream.  Downstream of the Tuscarora lands, Cayuga Creek travels through the Town of Wheatfield and then on through the Niagara Falls Air Force Base, the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Military Reservation upstream of Porter Road.  The stream through these reaches is generally 10-20 feet wide.  From here the stream flows through an area of the City of Niagara Falls that is developed residentially and commercially.  Cayuga Creek discharges into the upper Niagara River via the Little River, which separates Cayuga Island from the mainland.  Approximately 5,000 feet upstream of the mouth, Bergholtz Creek joins Cayuga Creek from the east.

Soils associated with the Cayuga Creek drainage basin were formed in lake-laid clays, silts and very fine sands.  Soils along the upper reaches of the creek are included in the Odessa-Lakemont-Ovid association which are described as deep, somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained soils having a fine textured or moderately fine textured subsoil that is dominantly reddish in color (Higgins et al. 1972).  Soils along the lower reaches are classified as Canandaigua-Rynham-Rheinbeck.  This association is described as having deep, somewhat poorly drained, to very poorly drained soils having a dominantly medium textured to fine textured subsoil. 

1.3.4        Gill Creek

Gill Creek headwaters are located on the Tuscarora Nation and in these upper reaches flow is seasonal.  Flow for Gill Creek originates from a wetland complex on Tuscarora lands.  Prior to the Project’s construction, the headwaters of Gill Creek flowed through what is now the southeast corner of the Lewiston Reservoir.  During the construction of Lewiston Reservoir, Gill Creek was rerouted around the dike at the reservoir’s southeast corner.  Downstream of the reservation, the creek runs south along the east dike of the Lewiston Reservoir, then in a westerly fashion along the south dike.  Along the reservoir, Gill Creek is approximately 5-10 feet wide.

Water from Lewiston Reservoir is discharged to Gill Creek to augment naturally occurring flow conditions.  See Figure 1.3.4-1 for a photograph of the outlet from Lewiston Reservoir to Gill Creek.  This augmentation flow ranges from a high of approximately 3 cfs in the summer and falls to zero in the winter and spring.  In 2003, flow from the Lewiston Reservoir was supplied to Gill Creek from June 2 through September 23.  The purpose of the augmentation flow is to enhance recreational use of Gill Creek in the Hyde Park area. 

South of the Lewiston Reservoir, Gill Creek flows through residential sections in the Town of Lewiston and the City of Niagara Falls.  The portion of Gill Creek between Porter Road and Pine Avenue is referred to as Hyde Park Lake, a 484 acre impoundment which was dammed at Pine Avenue in the late 1920’s (M. DeSantis, Senior Project Designer, City of Niagara Falls, NY, pers. comm., June 17, 2004).  In this area, the creek travels through the Hyde Park Golf Course owned by the City of Niagara Falls.  Downstream of the dam, the creek continues south through residential and industrial developments and discharges into the upper Niagara River approximately 1,000 feet downstream of the NYPA water intake structures.  The drainage basin of Gill Creek is approximately 14 sq. mi. (FEMA 1990). 

Soils along Gill Creek are of the Odessa-Lakemont-Ovid association-deep, somewhat poorly drained to very poorly drained soils having a fine textured or moderately fine textured subsoil that is dominantly reddish in color (Higgins et al. 1972). 

1.3.5        Fish Creek

Fish Creek is a relatively small stream with forested wetland swales serving as headwaters on the Tuscarora Nation.  Flows in this portion of Fish Creek are largely seasonal.  Fish Creek was routed around the Lewiston Reservoir upon construction of the Niagara Power Project.  Downstream of the reservation, Fish Creek runs north along the east dike of Lewiston Reservoir, then west along the north dike, where its width is approximately 5-10 feet.  Downstream of Lewiston Reservoir, Fish Creek runs through the Town of Lewiston – through mostly forested and residential areas until the creek reaches Niagara Falls Country Club.  Here it is channelized with little or no riparian buffer and is still fairly narrow.  The creek then travels under the Robert Moses Parkway and drops sharply, discharging into the lower Niagara River via a steep cement drainage channel.  The total drainage area of Fish Creek is 4.7 sq. mi. (FEMA 1979).

Soils on the Tuscarora Nation were not detailed by the Niagara County Soil Survey, but are generally formed in glacial till.  Along the reservoir, soils are classified as cut and fill lands.  Downstream, soils are lake laid clays and silts including Hamlin, Madalin and Churchville silt loams.  Hamlin soils generally occupy small strips in floods plains next to streams and are deep and well drained (Higgins et al. 1972).  Churchville and Madalin soils are described as poorly drained, level and formed in lacustrine clays and silts.

1.3.6        Tonawanda Creek

Tonawanda Creek enters the upper Niagara River near Tonawanda Island, with the lower 11 miles of the creek part of the New York State Barge Canal.  Depending on the level of the Niagara River, on whether the guard lock gate to the canal is open, and on the discharge from Tonawanda Creek, water may flow into or out of the Niagara River at the mouth of Tonawanda Creek.  During the navigation season (April through November), since the level of the Barge Canal is lower than that of the Niagara River, the opening of the guard gate can cause the flow of Tonawanda Creek to be reversed.  When the gate is open, 1,100 cfs flows from the Niagara River through the canal to the east.  Tonawanda Creek flows west to the river when the canal is closed to navigation from December through March.

The longest of the U.S. tributaries, Tonawanda Creek has a length of 101 miles.  It has a drainage area of 635 square miles (FEMA 1981).  The upstream portion of the basin is generally rural in character and consists of farms, wetlands and small residential communities.  Lower portions of the basin are more urban and include the cities of North Tonawanda and Tonawanda. 

Soils along much of Tonawanda Creek are classified as a mix of clay and silt loams (Swormville clay loam, Teel silt loam and Raynham silt loam) as well as urban land.  These soils are very deep, somewhat poorly drained and formed in silty lacustrine sediments overlying sandy deposits (Owens et al. 1986). 

1.3.7        Ellicott Creek

Ellicott Creek is a tributary to Tonawanda Creek and consists of approximately 110 square miles of drainage.  A major flood control project on lower Ellicott Creek provides protection for development in the Town of Amherst.  Similar to Tonawanda Creek, land use associated with downstream reaches of Ellicott Creek is more developed residentially and commercially.  The lower reaches of Ellicott Creek flow through the municipalities of Amherst and Tonawanda.  Upper reaches of Ellicott Creek are less developed and mostly forested and agricultural lands. 

Ellicott Creek was once called the Eleven Mile Creek.  At one time it was a narrow raceway serving the many mills on the creek.  In the 1930’s it was made larger and a dam was built at Island Park 2.4 miles upstream of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) gage near the Village of Williamsville to help control flooding.  Regulation occurs today by the seasonal manipulation of that dam and by intermittent pumping from stone quarries into stream.  In 1965, Erie County completed construction of a diversion channel in Ellicott Creek Park in the Town of Tonawanda, from Ellicott Creek to Tonawanda Creek for the purpose of controlling floods upstream in the Town of Amherst (FEMA 1992).

Soils along Ellicott Creek are dominated by areas formed by glacial lake sediments (Owens et al. 1986).  Upper reaches are classified as silt loams (Teel, Wayland and Raynham silt loams) as well as urban land.  These soils are very deep, somewhat poorly drained and formed in silty lacustrine sediments overlying sandy deposits.  Lower reaches of the watershed are dominated by Howard-Niagara soils, which are described as very deep, somewhat poorly drained soils formed in silty glacio-lacustrine deposits (Niagara) and very deep, well drained soils formed in medium textured glacial outwash deposits (Howard).

1.3.8        Grand Island Tributaries

The soil throughout the Town of Grand Island is a heavy textured mixture of silt, clay and loam  (FIA 1979) and the terrain is extremely flat.  The tributaries on Grand Island included in this study are Burnt Ship Creek, Woods Creek, Gun Creek, Spicer Creek and Big Sixmile Creek.  Burnt Ship Creek is located on the northern end of Grand Island and has a drainage area of approximately 0.7 square miles (NYSDEC 1998).  The creek flows through Buckhorn Marsh, and extends from the Chippawa Channel of the Niagara River on the west to Woods Creek on the east, separating Buckhorn Island to the north from the remainder of Grand Island to the south.  Burnt Ship Creek was dredged and two weirs were installed as part of a NYSDEC restoration program in the mid-1990’s in order to restore more open water in Buckhorn Marsh (NYSDEC 1998).  The addition of these two weirs has split Burnt Ship Creek into two distinct segments.  The western portion extends from the mouth of Burnt Ship Creek to a weir located just east of I-190.  The eastern open water section extends from the western weir just east of I-190 to the eastern weir located at the confluence of Woods Creek.  The riparian area around Burnt Ship Creek is marsh and the surrounding soils are termed Haplaquolls, which are classified as very poorly drained. 

Woods Creek has a drainage area of 7.5 square miles, flowing through the northern portion of Grand Island (FIA 1979).  Woods Creek begins at the confluence of two smaller streams in the north-central portion of Grand Island and travels through mostly residential land as it flows north to northwest.  The lower portion of Woods Creek flows through parkland, which is largely forested and open emergent marsh, and enters into the upper Niagara River.  Soils around Woods Creek are mostly Swormville clay loam; described as very deep, somewhat poorly drained soils formed in silty glacio-lacustrine sediments overlying sandy glacio-lacustrine deposits (Owens et al. 1986).

Gun Creek and Spicer Creek have drainage areas of 3.28 and 2.97 square miles, respectively (FIA 1979).  Both creeks flow easterly into the Tonawanda Channel of the upper Niagara River.  Gun Creek starts in the eastern section of Grand Island in a largely forested area containing some areas of deciduous forest wetlands.  The creek flows northeast through mostly forested and residential areas before discharge into the upper Niagara River.  The soils survey of Erie County reports that the soils around Gun Creek are deep, somewhat poorly drained, and are generally classified as very fine sandy loam with 3-8 percent slopes (Owens et al. 1986).  Gun Creek is typically 12 to 15 feet wide and, the banks along the creek are generally quite steep and range from 1 to 10 feet in height (Baird 2004).

Spicer Creek forms in the southeast portion of Grand Island in a residential area and flows northeast through a long stretch of forested land.  Spicer Creek passes through a golf course as it turns east and flows into the Niagara River.  Soils around Spicer Creek include Wayland silt loam and Schoharie silty clay loam.  The Wayland series consists of very deep, poorly drained and very poorly drained, nearly level soils formed in recent alluvium.  The Schoharie series consists of very deep, moderately well drained soils formed in clayey lacustrine sediments. The Schoharie silty clay loam (8-15%) soils were formed in reddish glacial lake sediments that are high in clay and are classified as severely eroded.  Owens et al. 1986 states, “sheet erosion and gullying have removed the surface of the soil and further erosion is a very serious hazard,” when describing the Schoharie silty clay loam (8-15%) soil type.

Big Sixmile Creek begins in mostly forested and residential areas and flows north-westerly on Grand Island into the Chippawa Channel of the upper Niagara River.  Soils in the upper reaches of the watershed are classified as mostly deep, poorly drained silt loam (Odessa and Lakemont).  Lower reaches contain Wayland silt loam, Schoharie silt loam and the highly erodable Schoharie silty clay loam (8-15% slope) (Owens et al. 1986).  A marina exists near the mouth of Big Sixmile Creek.  Further upstream of the marina, the creek is approximately 4 to 10 feet wide.  Several small rapids are present along the length of the creek within the Study Area when the topography featured a major change in slope (Baird 2004).

 

Table 1.3-1

Drainage Areas of Target Streams and Rivers

Water Body

Drainage Area at mouth

Big Sixmile Creek

Approx. 10.3 sq. mi.

Burnt Ship Creek

0.70 sq. mi.

Cayuga Creek

38.6 sq. mi.

Ellicott Creek

110 sq. mi.

Fish Creek

4.7 sq. mi.

Gill Creek

13.9 sq. mi.

Gun Creek

3.28 sq. mi.

Niagara River

263,700 sq. mi.

Spicer Creek

2.97 sq. mi.

Tonawanda Creek

635 sq. mi.

Woods Creek

7.5 sq. mi.

Notes:  Drainage areas obtained from NYSDEC 1994, FEMA 1979, FIA 1979, FEMA 1981, FEMA 1990 and URS et al. 2004c.  Drainage area for Big Sixmile Creek was calculated using GIS.

 

Figure 1.3-1

Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir and Tributaries

 

 

Figure 1.3.4-1

Gill Creek Flow Augmentation Discharge Outlet

Note: Photograph taken on October 28, 2003.  Water is present in the channel, however no flow was discharging from Lewiston Reservoir at that time.  The DO/Turbidity site (TGLC-01) was located in this channel, approximately 400 feet downstream from the outlet.

 

2.0     OVERVIEW OF EXISTING SURFACE WATER QUALITY

Since the establishment of the International Joint Commission (IJC) by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, both the U.S. and Canada have agreed to recognize that each country is affected by the other’s actions in the lake and river systems along their common border.  This treaty provides that “boundary waters and waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health and property on the other”.  The IJC first examined the water quality conditions in the Niagara River in response to a 1912 reference from the governments to examine the extent and causes of pollution in the boundary waters between the United States and Canada (IJC 2002).  During the 20th century, the Niagara River has seen its fair share of contamination problems.  This section provides a brief overview of the recent and current water quality conditions of the Niagara River. 

2.1         Water Quality Standards and Water Body Classifications

New York State (NYS) classifies all their surface waters based on their “best uses”, such as drinking, bathing, fish propagation and/or fish survival.  The entire length of the Niagara River has been designated Class A-Special (A-S).  The best uses of Class A-S waters are as water supply for consumption purposes; primary and secondary contact recreation (swimming and boating); and fishing.  Class A-S waters shall also be suitable for fish propagation and survival.  This classification may be given to those international boundary waters that meet or will meet drinking water standards and are or will be considered safe and satisfactory for drinking water purposes.  The U.S. tributaries to the Niagara River are classified as either Class B or Class C by NYSDEC.  The best usages of Class B waters are primary and secondary contact recreation and fishing.  These waters shall be suitable for fish propagation and survival.  The best usage of Class C waters is fishing.  Class C waters shall be suitable for fish propagation and survival and the water quality shall be suitable for primary and secondary contact recreation, although other factors may limit the use for these purposes (NYSDEC 2000). 

NYSDEC’s water quality assessment is based on a specific use of a particular water body being restricted.  The severity of use impairment is evaluated as precluded, impaired, stressed or threatened.  A “precluded” listing indicates that frequent/persistent water quality, or quantity, conditions and/or associated habitat degradation prevent all aspects of the waterbody use.  “Impaired” indicates occasional water quality, or quantity, conditions and/or habitat characteristics periodically prevent the use of the waterbody, or; waterbody uses are not precluded, but some aspects of the use are limited or restricted, or; waterbody uses are not precluded, but frequent/persistent water quality, or quantity, conditions and/or associated habitat degradation discourage the use of the waterbody, or; support of the waterbody use requires additional/advanced measures or treatment.  If a waterbody is listed as “stressed”, its uses are not significantly limited or restricted, but occasional water quality, or quantity, conditions and/or associated habitat degradation periodically discourage the use of the waterbody.  Finally, a listing of “threatened” is indicative of waterbodies whose quality currently supports uses and the ecosystem exhibits no obvious signs of stress, however existing or changing land use patterns may result in restricted use or ecosystem disruption, or; monitoring data reveals increasing contamination or the presence of toxics below the level of concern, or; waterbody uses are not restricted and no water quality problems exists, but the waterbody is a highly valued resource deemed worthy of special protection and consideration (NYSDEC 2000).  Table 2.1-1 lists the impairment status of each water body. 

NYSDEC has rated Niagara River water as impaired with regards to water quality primarily due to fish consumption advisories.  The cause of contamination in fish is primarily priority organic pollutants from contaminated sediment.  The fish consumption advisory for the Niagara River above Niagara Falls (eat no more than one meal per month of carp) also applies to all tributaries to the upper Niagara River up to the first barrier impassable by fish.  The advisory for the upper Niagara River also applies to the Lewiston Reservoir, due to the potential for fish entering the reservoir from the upper Niagara River (pers. com., T. Forti, NYSDOH, 11/30/2004).  Below Niagara Falls, the fish consumption advisory is more restrictive and applies to several trout and salmon species, American eel, channel catfish, white perch, white sucker, carp and smallmouth bass (NYSDOH 2003).

Cayuga Creek is on the state’s Priority Waterbodies List for “fish consumption precluded” due to contaminated sediment and is classified as Class C waters by the NYSDEC (NYSDEC 2000).  The impaired segment begins at Walmore Road and extends to the mouth (total of 4.2 miles).  Cayuga Creek is under a fish consumption advisory from the NYSDOH to “eat none” due to dioxin contaminated sediment (NYSDOH 2003).  This advisory is based largely on the results of NYSDEC 2002, in which fish tissue sampling was conducted in Cayuga Creek in 1997.  This study implicates industrial and landfill sites along Cayuga Creek and Bergholtz Creek as sources of PCB and DDT contamination in fish in the Little River.  Also, data collected as part of the NYSDEC study (2002) indicates that a significant source of mirex, dieldrin, and chlordane is located upstream from Porter Road, as young-of-year fish contained levels of these contaminants.  NYSDEC 2002 also suggests that sediment contamination associated with the Love Canal is a suspected contributor to dioxin levels in fish in Cayuga Creek.

Gill Creek, excluding Hyde Park Lake which is a Class B water body, is classified as Class C waters by the NYSDEC.  The lower reach of Gill Creek downstream of the Hyde Park dam is on the state’s Priority Waterbodies List for “fish consumption precluded” due to contaminated sediment (NYSDEC 2000).  Fish Creek is classified as a Class C stream by the NYSDEC and its designated uses are not impaired. 

The lower 10 miles of Tonawanda Creek in Erie County, classified as Class B by NYSDEC, is on the state’s Priority Waterbodies List for “aquatic life stressed” due to suspected silt and sediment from stream bank erosion and is listed as “fish consumption impaired” due to contaminated sediment.  This priority listing indicates that uses of the water body are not significantly limited or restricted, but occasional water quality or quantity conditions and/or associated habitat degradation periodically discourage the use of the waterbody (ambient water column analyses indicate occasional aquatic standard violations but impaired use was not evident) (NYSDEC 2000).

Ellicott Creek is classified as Class B and the lower 20 mile section of Ellicott Creek is on the state’s Priority Waterbodies List for “aquatic life stressed” (NYSDEC 2000).  This classification is used to generally indicate that uses of the water body are not significantly limited or restricted, but occasional water quality or quantity conditions and/or associated habitat degradation periodically discourage the use of the waterbody (ambient water column analyses indicated occasional aquatic standard violations but impaired use was not evident).

Burnt Ship Creek, Woods Creek, Gun Creek, Spicer Creek and Big Sixmile Creek are all classified as Class B waters.  The NYSDEC has listed Woods Creek, Gun Creek, Spicer Creek, and Big Sixmile Creek as needing verification of use impairment.

Table 2.1-2 lists conventional water quality standards for NYS waters for all classes such as allowable concentrations of coliform bacteria, dissolved oxygen, dissolved solids, pH, turbidity, nutrients, and radioactivity.  Water quality standards for toxic substances for Class A-S, B, and C water bodies are located in Appendix B.  This table lists the basis for each standard with regard to human health, aquatic life, wildlife, and aesthetics.  Where more than one type of standard is listed, the most stringent applies.

2.2         Existing Surface Water Quality Data Sources

This section provides a description of the existing water quality data that was used for this assessment in addition to the water level, dissolved oxygen, temperature and turbidity data collected in 2003 for this study.  These data sources will be used to describe the past and present water quality conditions of the target water bodies.  Additionally, the information will be used to supplement the findings based on the data collected in 2003. 

In the past, the water quality of the Niagara River has been affected by municipal/industrial discharges and waste disposal sites (USEPA 1997a).  Both point source and nonpoint source discharges to the river and to Lake Erie have resulted in the presence of persistent organic substances in the Niagara River.  In fact, the most significant water quality issue in the Niagara River-Lake Erie drainage basin is contamination of river bottom sediments by toxic organics (such as PCBs, mirex, and dioxin), from various industrial and urban sources (NYSDEC 1997).

Efforts to clean up the Great Lakes and connecting channels, of which the Niagara River is one, began in 1972 with the signing of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States.  In signing this agreement, both countries agreed to control phosphorus entering the Great Lakes.  A steady decrease in phosphorus loading to the lakes was observed almost immediately (NYSDEC 2000).

In 1973, the IJC designated the Niagara River as an “area of concern” from Smokes Creek near the southern end of Buffalo Harbor, north to the mouth of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario.  In this segment, specific water quality objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement were not being met.  According to USEPA (1997), PCBs, mirex, chlordane, dioxins, dibenzofurans, hexachlorocyclohexane, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and pesticides had caused impairment of habitat and survival of aquatic life within the Niagara River area of concern.  Remedial action plans (RAPs) for the Niagara River area of concern have since been developed by the United States and Canada.

Concurrently, Environment Canada (EC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (OMOE) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC)-the “Four Parties”-signed the Niagara River Declaration of Intent in 1987.  The purpose of which was to reduce the concentrations of toxic pollutants in the Niagara River.  Eighteen chemicals were targeted for reduction and were designated as “priority toxics” (Table 2.2-1).  The Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (NRTMP) is the program designed to achieve these reductions (Niagara River Secretariat 2003).   

The 18 priority toxics were selected based on their occurrence in the Niagara River or Lake Ontario at levels exceeding water, fish, or sediment criteria values.  These critical pollutants are of concern because they are persistent and bioaccumulative.  Ten of these chemicals, because they were believed to have significant Niagara River sources, were designated for 50% reduction by 1996.  For some chemicals such as mirex, mercury, hexachlorobenzene and PCBs, the 50% reduction was not only achieved but was exceeded.  For other chemicals, achieved reductions did not meet the 50% goal.  Levels of others, such as benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)fluoranthene, and benzo(k)fluoranthene, actually increased, or no significant trend in loadings was detected.

The primary method of assessing the progress of the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan is the Upstream/Downstream Program, which involves the analysis of water column and suspended sediment samples for more than 70 chemicals (see Table 2.2-2) in both the upper and lower Niagara River.  From 1986 to 1996, the program collected data weekly; beginning in 1997, sampling was done once every two weeks (Niagara River Secretariat 2003).  Data from the lower Niagara River sampling station, located at Niagara-on-the-Lake, are used to estimate the chemical loading to Lake Ontario.  Data from the upper Niagara River sampling station, located at Fort Erie near the headwaters of the Niagara River, are used to estimate chemical loading to the Niagara River from Lake Erie.  Sampling times at the Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake stations are staggered by 15 to 18 hours.  Although this sampling schedule does not account for water storage and release from the Robert Moses and Sir Adam Beck Power Plant reservoirs, it is regarded as a fair approximation of the travel time of water between the head and mouth of the Niagara River (EC 2000).  The annual Niagara River Upstream/Downstream Reports compare the upper 90th percentile recombined whole water concentrations (i.e., dissolved plus particulate phases) of a chemical to the most stringent agency criteria of Canada, the United States, Ontario, or New York State.

In addition to the monitoring conducted by the Upstream/Downstream Program, NYSDEC’s ambient water quality monitoring program, referred to as the Rotating Intensive Basin Studies (RIBS) Program, provides monthly sampling of water column chemistry at several selected sites across the state in order to monitor basin stream characteristics and determine long-term trends in water quality.  The stated objectives of the RIBS Program include: intensive overall assessment of water quality, including the documentation of good quality waters; long-term trends analysis of water quality; comprehensive, multi-media sampling; characterization of background conditions; and the establishment of baseline conditions for other site specific water quality investigations (NYSDEC 1997).  The RIBS Intensive Network also employs water column sampling along with comprehensive, multi-media sampling (macroinvertebrates, fish, toxicity testing, bottom sediment chemistry) to provide more detailed assessments of water quality in selected drainage basins.  NYSDEC sampled surface water each month for two consecutive years (1993 and 1994) at 12 stations throughout the United States portion of the Niagara River-Lake Erie Drainage Basin.  The RIBS report contains sampling results for this study and an assessment of each water body.  The Niagara River basin was again studied by NYSDEC RIBS program in 2001.  The results from the 2001 monitoring effort in the Niagara River and Cayuga, Tonawanda and Ellicott Creeks, are discussed in Section 5.  These data, obtained from W. Andrews, NYSDEC, have not been published yet.

NYSDEC maintains a long-term water quality monitoring site located at the mouth of the lower Niagara River at Fort Niagara, in Youngstown, NY.  Since 1969, NYSDEC has routinely collected water quality data at this location.  Parameters measured include water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, nutrients, and solids.  The monitoring of various toxic substances (heavy metals, organics, pesticides) was incorporated into the program in the early 1980s.  Analytical results from the Niagara River monitoring events conducted by NYSDEC and EC are summarized in Section 2.3.

Water quality data were gathered in the Lewiston Reservoir in November 1982 and in June/July 1983 by NYPA.  In November 1982, samples were collected at four stations throughout the reservoir from the surface, the middle, and bottom depths.  In addition to air temperature, parameters measured included total alkalinity, carbon dioxide, total hardness, ammonia-nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, total phosphorus, orthophosphorus, suspended sediments, turbidity, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, and transparency.  In the summer of 1983, water samples were tested for all parameters listed above, in addition to chlorophyll a, ferrous iron, and coliform bacteria. 

More recent water sampling in the Lewiston Reservoir took place in May, July, and October 2000 as part of the NYPA fish surveys.  Water and air temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, light penetration (secchi disk) and depth were measured at the surface and bottom from seven locations. 

As part of a study entitled “Use of Buckhorn Marsh and Grand Island Tributaries by Northern Pike for Spawning and as a Nursery” conducted by NYPA (NYPA and Gomez and Sullivan 2004), water temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pH and conductivity data were collected in several creeks on Grand Island during fish sampling in 2003.  These data were collected from Buckhorn Marsh, Woods, Gun, Spicer and Big Sixmile Creeks and will be examined to support the analysis of the dissolved oxygen and turbidity data collected as part of this study. 

2.3         Summary of Long-Term Monitoring Data for the Niagara River

Data from NYSDEC’s long-term monitoring station at Fort Niagara from 1984-2001 is summarized in this section.  These data suggest improving water quality trends in the concentrations of various conventional pollutants-particularly ammonia and phosphate-over the past 20 years.  NYSDEC has rated the water quality of the Niagara River at Fort Niagara as “poor” due primarily to the fish consumption advisory (as mentioned in Section 2.1) and other concerns about impairment of the fishery (NYSDEC 1997).  This rating is based on the analysis of various parameters measured during NYSDEC’s routine monitoring period and during the RIBS sampling program (1993-94).  Also in this section is a summary of findings of EC’s Upstream/Downstream program since 1986. 

NYSDEC Long Term Monitoring Program

Data collected at Fort Niagara by the NYSDEC routine monitoring program was analyzed for the period 1984-2001.  A data summary presenting mean, median, range, sampling period and any relevant water quality standard for each parameter is presented in Table 2.3-1.  Note that several water quality parameters have been analyzed since 1969, but this study uses data only from the past 20 years (since 1984, when substantial reductions in waste loading to the Niagara River were initiated.)  Field measurements for the Niagara River at Fort Niagara show that the pH is alkaline, with 80% of the samples ranging from pH 7.7 to pH 8.4.  For the 158 values collected from the routine monitoring period, the median pH value was 8.1.  The water quality standard for pH in a Class A-S stream (see Table 2.1-2) is 6.5 to 8.5.  pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the water on a scale from 1-14 (1 being very acidic, 7 neutral and 14 very alkaline).  pH can be affected by geology (limestone is associated with more alkaline conditions), runoff, sewage, acid rain and high nutrient levels.  Alkaline conditions can increase the toxicity of ammonia while decreasing the toxicity of metals.

Hardness data from the Niagara River at Fort Niagara for the period 1984-2001 indicated a median value of 120 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and a mean of 121 mg/L.  As part of its routine monitoring, NYSDEC collected alkalinity data for the Niagara River at Fort Niagara for the periods 1984-86 and 1990-2001.  These data show both mean and median values of 91 mg/L, with 80% of measurements falling between 85 and 96 mg/L.  NYSDEC has no standard for hardness or alkalinity.

Hardness describes the amount of calcium and magnesium in water.  The natural source of hardness is usually dissolved limestone.  Water with a low hardness can make heavy metals and other chemicals such as ammonia and certain acids much more toxic to fish.  Although there is no universal agreement on what exact concentrations define hard or soft water, the degree of hardness is interpreted by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Water Quality Association as follows: 0-17 mg/L is soft water, 17-60 mg/L is slightly hard, 60-120 mg/L is moderately hard, 120-180 mg/L is hard, and 180 mg/L and up qualifies as very hard water.  Calcium and magnesium may be added to a natural water system as it passes through soil and rock containing large amounts of these elements in mineral deposits.  Hard water is usually derived from the drainage through calcareous (calcite-rich) sediments and rock, such as limestones, sandstones, and siltstones.  Dolomites are rich in magnesium.  When groundwater flows through bedrock, cations, especially calcium and magnesium, leach from the bedrock and into the water.  Based on NYSDEC’s monitoring, water in the Niagara River is considered hard.

Dissolved oxygen values for the Niagara River at Fort Niagara are very good.  Eighty percent of the dissolved oxygen saturation values from the routine monitoring period fell between 90 and 110% saturation.  All routine monitoring samples meet the dissolved oxygen water quality standard of at least 6 mg/L.  Analysis of the annual median values to determine water quality trends indicates that the percent saturation of dissolved oxygen at this site has remained fairly uniform (median value = 100 percent saturated) since 1984.

Specific conductivity results for the routine monitoring period (1984-2001) show the median value at Fort Niagara to be 275 µmhos/cm with 80% of readings falling within the range of 246 to 295 µmhos/cm.  NYSDEC has no standard for specific conductivity.  The conductivity of rivers in the United States generally ranges from 50 to 1500 µmhos/cm; studies of inland fresh waters indicate that streams supporting good mixed fisheries have a range between 150 and 500 µmhos/cm (USEPA 1997b).  Conductivity is a measure of how well water can conduct an electrical current and relates to the amount of dissolved solids in water.  It is used to give an indication of the amount of inorganic materials in the water including, calcium, bicarbonate, nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and others.  Highly mineralized groundwater, agricultural effluent, storm water runoff, urban runoff from roads (especially road salt), and sewage effluent running into streams can affect conductivity. 

To assess nutrient levels in the Niagara River, NYSDEC has collected ammonia nitrogen, nitrate/nitrite nitrogen, and dissolved oxygen data at the Fort Niagara station since 1969, and total phosphate data since 1977.  Nitrogen in streams occurs in three forms: gaseous, organic and inorganic.  Nitrate (NO3), nitrite (NO2), and ammonia (NH3) are considered inorganic forms of nitrogen.  Note that ammonium (NH4+) is the ion that identifies the available nutrient, and ammonia is the gas.  Nitrates enter streams through the natural breakdown of vegetation, runoff from effluent lawn and crop fertilizers, and streams fed by nitrate-rich groundwater.  Runoff from agricultural facilities can have concentrated nitrates, as does inadequately treated sewage or poor septic tank systems.  High nitrate levels may result in algal blooms and an overabundance of oxygen-dependent bacteria that deplete the water of oxygen. 

An analysis of these data shows a downward trend for ammonia nitrogen over the past 30 years and a slight upward trend in nitrate-nitrogen concentrations.  The median ammonia nitrogen concentration for the period 1984-2001 was 0.026 mg/L, with 80% of the values falling between 0.012 and 0.054 mg/L.  Standards for ammonia nitrogen are temperature and pH dependent.  For a pH of 8.0 and a temperature range of 15-30 °C, the standard is 0.035 mg/L.  Ammonia levels at Fort Niagara were above the standard in 25% of the samples from 1984-2001.  However, all of the exceedence of the ammonia standard occurred prior to 1995.  Nitrate-nitrogen values are well below the water quality standard of 10 mg/L and nitrite values were generally below the more restrictive water quality standard (aquatic life-chronic value) of 0.02 mg/L for cold water fishery waters (see Table 2.3-1 for ranges). 

Phosphorus occurs naturally in low concentrations and is essential for all forms of life.  It comes from processes such as weathering of rock and the break down of organic matter.  Increased levels of phosphorus may result from erosion, discharge of sewage or detergents, urban runoff, rural runoff containing fertilizers, and animal and plant matter.  High phosphorus levels indicate organic "enrichment" of the waterway.  When phosphorus concentrations are too high, problems such as algal blooms and excessive weed growth can occur.  Abundant plant growth such as algal blooms leads to increased pH and turbidity and sometimes to the production of toxins and bad odors.

The median value for total phosphate from the routine monitoring program was 0.016 mg/L, with 80% of values falling between 0.009 and 0.036 mg/L.  Phosphate values measured since 1977 show a downward trend.  Although NYSDEC has no standard for phosphate, there is a standard for phosphorus, which is a constituent of phosphate.  Note that there is no numerical standard for phosphorus in surface waters in New York State, however the standard listed in Table 2.1-2 states that the levels of phosphorus present in water shall be such as not to result in the growth of algae, weed, and slimes that will impair the waters for their best usage.  The Niagara River is not impaired due to these causes.

NYSDEC also monitors the concentration of different minerals in the Niagara River at Fort Niagara: calcium; chloride; fluoride; magnesium; potassium; sodium; and, sulfate.  NYSDEC has specified standards for four of these minerals, namely, chloride, fluoride, magnesium, and sulfate.  As shown in Table 2.3-1, all data collected for these four minerals met NYSDEC water quality standards.

During routine sampling at the Fort Niagara station, NYSDEC measured the concentrations of nine heavy metals in Niagara River water:  aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, and zinc.  Of these, the data show that concentrations of iron, lead and mercury exceeded water quality standard values at some time during the sampling period (see Table 2.3-1). 

In 18 of the 67 NYSDEC samples, iron levels exceeded the 300 µg/L water quality standard value for aquatic life (chronic).  Since this value is exceeded in all freshwater watersheds in New York State, the scientific basis of the standard is under review (NYSDEC 2000).  In two of the 44 NYSDEC samples analyzed for the soluble form of lead, measured values exceeded the aquatic life (chronic) standard of 4.74 µg/L (based on average hardness of 121 mg/L) at Fort Niagara. 

Concentrations of mercury were below the 0.7 µg/L standard for drinking water in all NYSDEC samples (90 samples).  Note that the 0.0007 µg/L standard for fish consumption is below method detection limits for NYSDEC lab analysis protocols, so quantifying the levels of mercury at Fort Niagara is not possible from the available data.

NYSDEC monitored concentrations of the following volatile halogenated organics (4-6 samples annually) at Fort Niagara since 1987: bromodichloromethane, chloroform, chloromethane, dibromochloromethane, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene, and vinyl chloride.  For the period of record (1987-2001), levels of the eight primary volatile halogenated organics were never found in excess of the water quality standards.  Note that trichloroethene was detected at 0.20 µg/L on May 31, 2000 (the NYS standard for Health (Water Source) is 5.0 µg/L).

NYSDEC’s routine sampling showed phenolic compounds to be a parameter of concern at Fort Niagara.  During NYSDEC’s routine monitoring period, 12 out of the 102 (12%) samples showed levels of total phenols that exceeded the 1 µg/L water quality standard for “Aesthetics”.  There were questions as to the accuracy of the assessment for this parameter due to high minimum laboratory reporting levels and relatively low water quality standards (both are 1 µg/L, NYSDEC 1997).  Analysis of samples collected at Fort Niagara from 1999-2001 showed total phenols as non-detect.

Environment Canada’s Upstream/Downstream Monitoring Program

During the period 1986-97, EC sampled for 21 metals at Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Of these, concentrations of aluminum, cobalt, iron, lead, and mercury exceeded NYSDEC water quality standard values (EC 2000).  Lead concentrations in the EC samples at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake were below the NYSDEC standard for drinking water (50 µg/L), but above the NYSDEC aquatic life (chronic) standard of 4.74 µg/L (based on an average hardness of 121 mg/L).  At Fort Erie, most of the exceedences of standard values for lead occurred through 1991, after which lead concentrations began to show a decrease.  Since 1991, lead concentrations at Fort Erie have exceeded the 4.74 µg/L standard only twice during the weekly sampling.  Lead concentrations are noticeably higher at Niagara-on-the-Lake than Fort Erie, suggesting that there are sources of lead along the Niagara River.  Reinforcing this conclusion is the fact that the decrease observed in lead concentrations at Fort Erie after 1991 has not been observed at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

A review of the EC data indicates that mercury may have sources upstream of the Niagara River, since the concentrations at Fort Erie are higher than those at Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Protocols used for contaminant analysis by EC in the upstream/downstream program are different than those used by NYSDEC.  EC is able to achieve much lower detection limits because the sampling method filters the particulate phase of contaminants in the water column and uses this to calculate the equivalent water concentration.

For nine of the 11 years, aluminum concentrations are higher at Niagara-on-the-Lake, indicative of sources of aluminum along the Niagara River.  EC data for cobalt indicate that concentrations of this analyte at Fort Erie occasionally exceeded the NYSDEC water quality standard value for chronic aquatic life of 5 µg/L.  In general, cobalt levels were lower at Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The standard value was exceeded only once at Niagara-on-the-Lake during the 11-year weekly sampling program (EC 2000).  All annual mean copper concentrations measured by EC at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake for the 11-year monitoring program were well below the standard.  Time-series plots of EC’s monitoring indicate that the standard for nickel was met at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Annual mean loads of chlorobenzenes were much higher at Niagara-on-the-Lake than at Fort Erie, indicating that the sources are likely along the Niagara River.  Only at Niagara-on-the-Lake was 1,2,3,4-tetrachlorobenzene consistently detected.  Penta- and hexachlorobenzene were detected in only a few samples during a single year at Fort Erie, but were regularly found above the practical detection limit at Niagara-on-the-Lake (EC 2000).  Hexachlorobenzene concentrations showed a downward trend at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake over the EC monitoring period. 

Several of the organochlorine pesticides and PCBs monitored in the Upstream/Downstream Program were found at levels exceeding NYSDEC standard values: alpha BHC, gamma BHC (lindane), total chlordane, p,p’-DDT, p,p’-DDE, p,p’-DDD, total DDT, heptachlor epoxide, mirex, dieldrin, and PCBs.

Similar concentrations of these chemicals, such as dieldrin and PCBs at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, or higher concentrations of DDT and metabolites at Fort Erie, suggest that Lake Erie/upstream inputs are the major source (Niagara River Secretariat 2003).  These chemicals are in fact known to occur throughout the Great Lakes.  Their consistent detection in air and precipitation throughout the Great Lakes Basin suggests that the atmosphere may be a primary route of entry into the lakes (EC 2000).  Identifying Lake Erie/upstream inputs as the major source of a chemical to the river, however, does not preclude the possibility of sources of the same chemical along the Niagara River.  It has been shown, for example, that significant sources of PCBs occur upstream of the Niagara River, but biomonitoring studies have shown that PCBs are also present in several United States tributaries to the Niagara River as well (EC 2000).

Since mirex has been detected only at Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is assumed to be a chemical with significant Niagara River sources.  It is also listed as a priority toxic for Lake Ontario.  A decrease in mirex concentration over time is likely attributable to reduced input from Niagara River sources (EC 2000).  In general, the concentrations of organochlorine pesticides decreased over the EC period of record (Niagara River Secretariat 2003).  This decline is probably due to reductions in Lake Erie/upstream input.

PCB concentrations have decreased since 1986-87, but are still above the NYSDEC standard of 0.001 µg/L for human health fish consumption.  Beginning with the 1990-91 data, PCB loadings at Niagara-on-the-Lake have in fact become similar to those at Fort Erie, suggesting that remedial actions at Niagara River sources have had a positive effect (EC 2000).

The annual mean loading at Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie for both atrazine and metalachlor are almost the same, which suggests that Lake Erie/upstream inputs are the principal source of these chemicals to the river.  This is consistent with maps showing that these two herbicides are heavily used in the Lake Erie basin (EC 2000).

Benzo(b,k)fluoranthene and chrysene/triphenylene exceed NYSDEC criteria at both Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake.  With the exception of the naphthalenes, the annual loadings of the other PAHs at Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie tend to mirror each other, although Niagara-on-the-Lake loadings were greater than those at Fort Erie.  An EC review of data trends suggested that, although some fluctuation in input from Niagara River sources may have occurred, the major influence on Niagara-on-the-Lake loading was Lake Erie/upstream inputs (EC 2000).

The industrial byproduct chemicals hexachlorocyclopentadiene and octachlorostyrene were detected only at Niagara-on-the-Lake, while hexachlorobutadiene was found predominantly at Niagara-on-the-Lake.  This would seem to indicate sources along the Niagara River.  During the period 1989-92, concentrations of octachlorostyrene at the Niagara-on-the-Lake station exceeded the NYSDEC standard of 0.006 µg/L for human health fish consumption, as they did again in 1994-95.  The decrease in concentrations of industrial byproduct chemicals over the sampling period 1986-97 was likely the result of a reduction in Niagara River sources (EC 2000).

Although phthalates were sampled and results reported, EC did not analyze them in its report (EC 2000) because of a recognized contamination problem during sampling and analysis.  As part of its monitoring program, EC also analyzed water samples for benzene, chloroform, dichloromethane, carbon tetrachloride, 1,2-dichloroethane, and tetrachloroethene. 

More recent data collected as part of this program were published in Merriman and Kuntz 2002.  This report summarizes chemical data collected over a two-year period, 1997-98 and 1998-99 and includes the results for estimated annual mean and 90 percent confidence interval concentrations for all parameters at the Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake stations.  The report also offers a disclaimer:  “The intended use of the data from this program is to measure concentrations and loads of contaminants, and report on trends in the river, specifically in relation to implemented control measures,” and “use of this data for any other purposes is at the discretion of the user.” 

Recent EC water quality monitoring data for 1997/98 and 1998/99 was reviewed and exceedences of the NYSDEC water quality criteria are presented in Table 2.3-2.  The results are generally consistent with the previous years findings.  This program will continue to monitor the water quality of the Niagara River and to track the priority chemicals of concern, since the concentration of several contaminants still exceed fish tissue consumption guidelines.  [SM1] 

Summary

The most recent NYSDEC RIBS report rated the Niagara River’s water quality poor due to fish consumption and listed lead and phenols as water quality parameters of concern.  However, the NYSDEC report acknowledged that the accuracy of their assessment for these two parameters was questionable due to high minimum laboratory reporting levels and relatively low water quality standards (NYSDEC 1997).  The minimum reporting level for lead was 0.5 µg/L compared to the assessment criteria of 1.0 µg/L.  For phenols, both the assessment criteria and the minimum reporting level were equal to 1.0 µg/L.  Their water quality rating was based upon data collected up to 1994 only.  The most recent report is in preparation by NYSDEC.  Since 1986, organic chemicals such as mirex, PCBs, hexachlorobenzene, dieldrin and a host of others have been detected at the Niagara on the Lake station as part of the Niagara River Upstream/Downstream Water Quality Monitoring Program.  The concentrations and loads of many of the 18 NRTMP priority toxics in the Niagara River have decreased significantly, and in nearly all cases the decreases have exceeded 70% since 1986/87.  The improvements in water quality of the Niagara River are due, at least in part, to the remedial efforts at contaminant sources to the Niagara River (Niagara River Secretariat 2003).

 

Table 2.1-1

Priority Waterbodies List (Impacted/Threatened Segments)

Water Body

Segment

Primary Use Affected

Problem Severity

Primary Pollutant/Cause

Big Sixmile Creek

-

Water Body in need of verification of impairment

Cayuga Creek

Walmore Rd. to mouth

Fish Consumption

Precluded

Priority Organics

Ellicott Creek

Mouth to 20 miles upstream

Aquatic Life

Stressed

Aesthetics

Gill Creek

Hyde Park Dam to mouth

Fish Consumption

Precluded

Priority Organics

Gun Creek

-

Water Body in need of verification of impairment

Niagara River

Entire length

Fish Consumption

Impaired

Priority Organics

Spicer Creek

-

Water Body in need of verification of impairment

Tonawanda Creek

Mouth to 10 miles upstream

Aquatic Life

Stressed

Silt/sediment

Twomile Creek

Lower 5 miles

Public Bathing

Impaired

Pathogens

Woods Creek

-

Water Body in need of verification of impairment

Note:  Water bodies not contained in this table are not listed as impacted on the NYSDEC Priority Water Bodies List (e.g., Fish Creek, Lewiston Reservoir, Burnt Ship Creek).  Water Body Impairments Needing Verification are segments that are thought to have a use impairment or water quality impact, but for which there is not sufficient or definitive documentation.  These segments are designated for verification by the NYSDEC (NYSDEC 2000).

 

Table 2.1-2

Narrative Surface Water Quality Standards

Parameter

Classes

Standard

Taste-, color-, and odor- producing, toxic and other deleterious substances

A-Special, B, C, D

None in amounts that will adversely affect the taste, color or odor thereof, or impair the waters for their best usages.

Dissolved solids

A-Special, B, C

Shall not exceed 200 mg/L.

Shall be kept as low as practicable to maintain the best usage of waters but in no case shall it exceed 500 mg/L.

Suspended, colloidal and settleable solids

A-Special, B, C, D

None from sewage, industrial wastes or other wastes that will cause deposition or impair the waters for their best usages.

Oil and floating substances

A-Special, B, C, D

No residue attributable to sewage, Industrial wastes or other wastes, nor visible oil film nor globules of grease.

Phosphorus and nitrogen

A-Special, B, C, D

None in amounts that will result in growths of algae, weeds and slimes that will impair the waters for their best usages.

Radioactivity

A-Special

Should be kept at the lowest practicable levels, and in any event should be controlled to the extent necessary to prevent harmful effects on health.

pH

A-Special, B, C,

Shall not be less than 6.5 or more than 8.5.

pH

D

Shall not be less than 6.0 or more than 9.5.

Total coliforms

(number per 100 mL)

A-Special

The geometric mean, of not less than five samples, taken over not more than a 30-day period shall not exceed 1,000.

Total coliforms

(number per 100 mL)

B, C, D

The monthly median value and more than 20 percent of the samples, from a minimum of five examinations, shall not exceed 2,400 and 5,000, respectively

Fecal Coliforms

(number per 100 mL)

A-Special

The geometric mean, of not less than five samples, taken over not more than a 30-day period shall not exceed 200

Fecal Coliforms

(number per 100 mL)

B, C, D

The monthly geometric mean, from a minimum of five examinations, shall not exceed 200.

Table 2.1-2 (Cont.)

Narrative Surface Water Quality Standards

Parameter

Classes

Standard

Dissolved oxygen (DO)

A-Special

In rivers and upper waters of lakes, not less than 6.0 mg/L at any time. In hypolimnetic waters, it should not be less than necessary for the support of fishlife, particularly cold water species.

Dissolved oxygen (DO)

B, C

For cold waters suitable for trout spawning, the DO concentration shall not be less than 7.0 mg/L from other than natural conditions. For trout waters, the minimum daily average shall not be less than 6.0 mg/L, and at no time shall the concentration be less than 5.0 mg/L. For nontrout waters, the minimum daily average shall not be less than 5.0 mg/L, and at no time shall the DO concentration be less than 4.0 mg/L.

Dissolved oxygen (DO)

D

Shall not be less than 3.0 mg/L at any time.

Turbidity

B, C, D

No increase that will cause a substantial visible contrast to natural conditions.

Thermal discharges

Nontrout waters

The water temperature at the surface of a stream shall not be raised to more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit at any point

Thermal discharges

Trout waters

No discharge at a temperature over 70 degrees Fahrenheit shall be permitted at any time to streams classified for trout

Note:  Standards last amended August 1999 (NYSDEC 1999).

 

Table 2.2-1

Niagara River Toxics Management Plan, Priority Toxic Pollutants

Priority Toxic Pollutants

 

 

 

 

Arsenic

 

 

Mercury

 

scheduled for 50% reduction

Lead

 

 

Benz(a)anthracene

scheduled for 50% reduction

Benzo(a)pyrene

scheduled for 50% reduction

Benzo(b)fluoranthene

scheduled for 50% reduction

Benzo(k)fluoranthene

scheduled for 50% reduction

Chrysene/Triphenylene

 

Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)

scheduled for 50% reduction

Octachlorostyrene (OCS)

 

Hexachlorobenzene (HCB)

scheduled for 50% reduction

PCBs

 

scheduled for 50% reduction

Mirex/Photomirex

scheduled for 50% reduction

Chlordane (alpha, gamma & oxychlordane)

 

Dieldrin

 

 

Toxaphene

 

DDT & metabolites

 

Dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD)

scheduled for 50% reduction

Note:  Source, Niagara River Secretariat 2003.

 

Table 2.2-2

Chemicals Analyzed in the Niagara River Upstream/Downstream Program by Environment Canada

Chlorobenzenes (CBs)

1,2-Dichlorobenzene

1,4-Dichlorobenzene

1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene

1,2,3,4-Tetrachlorobenzene

Hexachlorobenzene

1,3-Dichlorobenzene

1,2,3-Trichlorobenzene

1,3,5-Trichlorobenzene

Pentachlorobenzene

Organochlorine pesticides (OCs) and PCBs

alpha-BHC

gamma-BHC (lindane)

Heptachlor

Hetachlor-epoxide

alpha-Endosulfan

beta-Endosulfan

Dieldrin

alpha-Chlordane

gamma-Chlordane

Methoxychlor

Aldrin

Endrin

Endrin aldehyde

Polychlorinated biphenyls

p,p'-DDT

o,p'-DDT

p,p'-DDE

p,p'-TDE

Mirex

Photomirex

Herbicides

Metolachlor

Atrazine

Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Indene

Napthalene

2-Methylnaphthalene

2-Chloronaphthalene

Fluorene

Pyrene

Benzo(b/k)fluoranthene

Benz(a)anthracene

Dibenz(a,h)anthracene

Indeno(123-cd)pyrene

1,2,3,4-tetrahydronaphthalene

1-Methylnaphthalene

Acenaphthylene

Phenanthrene

Fluoranthene

Benzo(a)pyrene

Benzo(ghi)perylene

Anthracene

Chrysene/triphenylene

Phthalates

Dimethyphthalate

Di-n-butylphthalate

Dioctylphthalate

Diethylphthalate

Benzlbutylphthalate

Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate

Industrial By-Product Chemicals

Octachlorostyrene

Hexachlorobutadiene

Hexachlorocyclopentadiene

Table 2.2-2(cont.)

Chemicals Analyzed in the Niagara River Upstream/Downstream Program by Environment Canada

Volatiles

Benzene

Chloroform

Dichloromethane

Carbon Tetrachloride

1,2-Dichloroethane

Tetrachloroethylene

Chlorophenols

2,3-Dichlorophenol

3,4-Dichlorophenol

2,4,5-Trichlorophenol

3,4,5-Trichlorophenol

2,4-Dichlorophenol

3,5-Dichlorophenol

2,4,6-Trichlorophenol

Pentachlorophenol

2,6-Dichlorophenol

2,3,5-Trichlorophenol

2,3,6-Trichlorophenol

3-methyl-4-Dichlorophenol

Dioxin

2,3,7,8-TCDD

Metals

Aluminum

Beryllium

Copper

Manganese

Selenium

Zinc

Antimony

Cadmium

Iron

Mercury

Silver

Arsenic

Chromium

Lead

Molybdenum

Strontium

Barium

Cobalt

Lithium

Nickel

Vanadium

Note:  Source, EC 2000.

 

Table 2.3-1

Analytical Data Summary NYSDEC station at Fort Niagara, NY

Parameter

Units

Mean

Median

Range

Period

NYS Standard

Type

Alkalinity

mg/L

90.9

91.2

81-101

1984-2001

none

NA

Aluminum, soluble

μg/L

17.1

10.0

4.3-86.0

1987-2001

100

A (C)

Ammonia

mg/L

0.031

0.026

0.005-0.130

1984-2001

0.035*

A (C)

Cadmium, soluble

μg/L

0.26

0.10

0.02-1.0

1987-2001

2.46**

A (C)

Calcium

mg/L

32.8

32.6

26.6-41.9

1987-2001

none

NA

Chloride

mg/L

15.8

16.0

10-21

1984-2001

250

H (WS)

Coliform, fecal

C/100 mL

140

42

8-2,200

1984-1988

200

NA

Coliform, total

C/100 mL

1,093

500

100-16,000

1984-1988

1,000

NA

Conductivity

μohms/cm

276

275

218-774

1984-2001

none

NA

Copper, soluble

μg/L

1.84

1.40

0.60-6.00

1987-2001

10.69**

A (C)

Fluoride

mg/L

0.12

0.11

0.02-0.30

1984-2001

1.5

H (WS)

Hardness

mg/L

121

120

92-240

1986-2001

none

NA

Iron

μg/L

609

112

29-20,000

1987-2001

300

A (C)

Lead, soluble

μg/L

1.84

0.50

0.10-9.60

1987-2001

4.74**

A (C)

Magnesium

mg/L

7.9

7.9

6.3-8.8

1987-2001

35

H (WS)

Manganese

μg/L

12

10

1-100

1987-2001

300

E

Mercury

μg/L

0.13

0.10

0.01-0.40

1984-2001

0.0007

H (FC)

Nickel, soluble

μg/L

1.26

1.00

0.42-3.00

1987-2001

62.0**

A (C)

Nitrate

mg/L

0.180

0.180

0.140-0.260

1999-2001

10.0

H (WS)

Nitrite

mg/L

0.006

0.005

0.002-0.02

1984-2001

0.020

A (C)

TKN

mg/L

0.176

0.167

0.050-0.312

1999-2001

none

NA

Note:  Table continued on next page.  *Ammonia standard is pH dependent.  ** Hardness-based standard figured on 121 mg/L of hardness. Standards types are Health (Water Source) H (WS), Health (Fish Consumption) H (FC), Aquatic (Chronic) A (C), Aquatic (Acute) A (A), Wildlife (W) or Aesthetic (E).

 

Table 2.3-1 (Cont.)

Analytical Data Summary NYSDEC Station at Fort Niagara, NY

Parameter

Units

Mean

Median

Range

Period

NYS Standard

Type

Oxygen, Dissolved

mg/L

11.14

11.1

7.2-16.4

1984-2001

6.00

NA

Oxygen, Dissolved

%

101

100

79-134

1984-2001

none

NA

pH

s.u.

8.1

8.1

6.6-8.9

1984-2001

6.5-8.5

NA

Phenolics, total

μg/L

1.07

1.0

0-6.0

1984-2001

1.0

E

Phosphate, total

mg/L

0.020

0.016

0.005-0.070

1984-1998

none

NA

Phosphorus, total

mg/L

0.0048

0.0030

0.001-0.029

1984-2001

narrative

NA

Potassium

mg/L

1.41

1.40

1.20-1.89

1987-2001

none

NA

Sodium

mg/L

8.77

8.70

7.3-9.9

1987-2001

none

NA

Sulfate

mg/L

24.0

24.0

13.5-30.0

1987-2001

250

H (WS)

Solids, total dissolved

mg/L

176

158

132-509

1999-2001

200

NA

Solids, total suspended

mg/L

3.1

2.0

1.1-8.8

1999-2001

narrative

NA

Solids, total volatile

mg/L

57

61

23-91

1999-2001

none

NA

Temperature, water

˚ C

12.8

12.4

0-25.0

1984-2001

25.0 (guidance)

NA

Turbidity

NTU

3.41

2.08

0.5-24.0

1984-2001

narrative

NA

Zinc

μg/L

13.88

10.0

2.1-70.0

1984-2001

97.0**

A (C)

Note:  *Ammonia standard is pH dependent.  ** Hardness-based standard figured on 121 mg/L of hardness.  Volatile organic compounds were analyzed as part of this effort, but are not reported here because there were no detections.  Standards types are Health (Water Source) H (WS), Health (Fish Consumption) H (FC), Aquatic (Chronic) A (C), Aquatic (Acute) A (A), Wildlife (W) or Aesthetic (E).

 

Table 2.3-2

Environment Canada Upstream/Downstream Water Quality Data EXCEEDING NYSDEC STANDARDS

FOR 1997/98 and 1998/99

Parameter

Priority Pollutant

Units

Mean Concentration

Ratio: Lower vs Upper

Niagara River

Concentration for Upper 90% Confidence Interval

NYSDEC Water Quality Standard

 

Upper Niagara River

Lower Niagara River

 

Upper Niagara River

 

Lower Niagara River

Aquatic Life (Acute)

Aquatic Life (Chronic)

Health - Fish Consumption

1997/98

1998/99

1997/98

1998/99

1997/98

1998/99

1997/98

1998/99

Organic Compounds (Particulate+dissolved phases)

 

Hexachlorobenzene

n

ng/l

0.019

0.016

0.830

0.068

25.8

0.021

0.019

0.110

0.085

 

1,000

0.03

 

Octachlorostyrene

 

ng/l

 

 

0.004

0.019

 

 

 

0.005

0.021

 

 

0.006

 

p,p-DDE

 

ng/l

0.165

0.078

0.073

0.046

0.5

0.211

0.092

0.093

0.056

 

 

0.007

 

p,p-TDE (p,p-DDD)

 

ng/l

0.176

0.070

0.059

0.043

0.4

0.302

0.081

0.066

0.051

 

 

0.08

 

p,p-DDT

 

ng/l

0.065

0.018

0.061

0.015

0.9

0.085

0.024

0.083

0.021

 

 

0.01

 

Mirex

n

ng/l

0.001

 

0.007

0.014

9.5

0.002

 

0.010

0.027

 

1

0.001

 

Chlordane (total)

n

ng/l

0.023

0.026

0.040

0.024

1.3

0.027

0.028

0.050

0.029

 

 

0.02

 

Dieldrin

n

ng/l

0.159

0.123

0.192

0.157

1.2

0.178

0.134

0.228

0.166

24

56

0.0006

 

Octachlorostyrene

 

ng/l

 

 

0.004

0.019

 

 

 

0.005

0.021

 

 

0.006

 

PCB

n

ng/l

0.896

 

1.174

 

1.3

0.988

 

1.286

 

 

 

0.001

 

Total Congener PCB

 

ng/l

 

1.433

 

1.773

1.2

 

1.758

 

2.009

 

 

0.001

Notes:  [SM2] Data from Merriman and Kuntz 2002; The upper Niagara River station was located at Fort Erie; the lower Niagara River station was at Niagara-on-the Lake.  Blank data fields indicate no detection.  The ratio is between the mean concentration of 1997/98 and 1998/99 from the lower Niagara River and the respective mean concentrations from the upper Niagara River.

3.0     FACTORS THAT COULD POTENTIALLY AFFECT SURFACE WATER QUALITY

There are a myriad of factors that could potentially affect the quality of surface water in any water body.  This section is a summary of the major factors that have been identified, through previous studies and information gathered for the relicensing, as having the potential to affect the quality of the surface water in the study area. 

3.1         Niagara River Water Level and Flow Fluctuation

As mentioned, NYPA studied water level and flow fluctuation data from 1991-2002 (URS et al. 2003b).  From this study it was learned that water level fluctuations in both the upper and lower Niagara River are caused by a number of factors including U.S./Canadian power generation.  Other factors affecting water level and flow fluctuations include wind, natural flow variations and ice conditions, water levels of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, and control of Niagara Falls flow for scenic purposes (URS et al. 2003b).  Daily water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River from all causes normally amount to less than 1.5 feet per day.  Water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool (in the upper Niagara River) are limited by an International Niagara Board of Control (INBC) directive to 1.5 feet per day within a 3-foot range for normal conditions.  For extreme conditions (i.e., high flow, low flow, ice, etc.), the allowable range of Chippawa-Grass Island Pool water levels is extended to 4 feet.  The effect of ponding in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool is detectable upstream and varies with river conditions.  At times, the influence can extend as far upstream to somewhere between Frenchman’s Creek and the Peace Bridge (URS et al. 2003b).

The water level elevation of the lower Niagara River is a complex function of Lake Ontario level, discharge from the Robert Moses and Canadian plants, and flow rate over Niagara Falls.  There are no permanent water level elevation gauges in the lower Niagara River downstream of the Robert Moses tailrace.  Water level fluctuations in the lower Niagara River at the Ashland Avenue gauge (upstream of the RMNPP tailrace) can be as great as 12 feet per day (URS et al. 2003b).  This daily fluctuation is due to the change in the treaty-mandated control of flow over Niagara Falls.  Water level fluctuations downstream of the RMNPP tailrace are much less.  The average daily water level fluctuation 1.4 miles downstream of the RMNPP tailrace, during the 2002 tourist season, was approximately 1.5 feet. The daily fluctuations decrease progressively at the temporary gauges located further downstream.  At the most downstream temporary gauge in the lower Niagara River (near the mouth at Fort Niagara), the average daily fluctuation during the 2002 tourist season was 0.6 feet (URS et al. 2003b). 

A major component of the field work associated with this surface water quality study was the analysis of water level fluctuations in the Niagara River and its U.S. tributaries.  Water level fluctuations can contribute to other factors affecting surface water quality, such as shoreline erosion.  Continuous water level data collected as part of this study as well as the Tributary Backwater Study (URS et al. 2004c) were used to determine the extent to which water level fluctuations in the upper and lower Niagara River, as well as Lewiston Reservoir affect the water levels in the U.S. tributaries. 

A comprehensive inventory of shoreline protection features, identification of significant erosion and sedimentation sites, and “points of interest” on upper and lower Niagara River and major tributaries was conducted in 2003 by W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers, Ltd.  This study recognizes that water level fluctuations in both the upper and lower Niagara River are caused by a number of factors in addition to hydropower generation and Treaty flows, including wind, natural flow, ice conditions, and water levels of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.  Baird also recognizes the difficulty in quantitatively assessing the influence of the water level fluctuations on erosion areas.  Instead, the possible influence of water level fluctuations (due to U.S./Canadian power generation and Treaty flows) on the erosion sites was qualitatively categorized as “high”, “moderate”, “low”, or “none” (and a combination of categories – i.e., “low to none”). 

For example, due to the daily water level fluctuations immediately downstream of the RMNPP in the lower Niagara River, any erosion sites in that area were considered to be under a “high” influence.  The influence decreased at the sites located further downstream.  Similarly, sites in the immediate vicinity of the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool in the upper Niagara River were under a “high” influence of U.S./Canadian power generation.  Water level fluctuations due to power generation have less of an influence on sites located further upstream than Cayuga Island.  Therefore, the influence evaluation is essentially related to the relative location of an erosion site to the areas that experience the highest water level influence due to U.S./Canadian power generation (namely, the tailrace on the lower Niagara River and the intakes on the upper Niagara River) (Baird 2004). 

3.2         Bedrock, Soils and Erosion

Underlying bedrock can affect the chemistry of associated streams by the process of leaching.  Calcium and magnesium may be added to a natural water system as it passes through soil and rock containing large amounts of these elements in mineral deposits.  Hard water is usually derived from the drainage through calcareous sediments and rock, such as limestones and dolomite.  Bedrock throughout most of the study area is of the Lockport Dolomite Formation, which is rich in magnesium.  When water interacts with bedrock, cations-especially calcium and magnesium-can leach from the bedrock and into the water.  Water which flows through the ground as groundwater tends to become harder the longer the water circulates and interacts with the surrounding soil and rock.  Water that has entered waterways directly without soaking into the ground will be significantly softer.  North of the Niagara Escarpment and along the lower Niagara River, the bedrock consists of Queenston Shale. 

Figure 3.2-1 shows the general soil types in the Project area.  Each soil type has an associated erosion factor (K), which indicates the susceptibility of a soil to sheet and rill erosion.  Sheet erosion refers to the removal of a thin, relatively uniform layer of soil from the land surface caused by runoff and rill erosion is a process in which numerous small channels, typically a few inches deep, are formed.  These processes typically occur on recently cultivated soils or filled lands.  This factor is based primarily on percentage of silt, sand, and organic matter and on soil structure and permeability.  Soils in the study area have erosion factor K values in the range of 0.05 to 0.69.  The higher the value the more susceptible the soil is to sheet and rill erosion, but generally, a K factor of 0.36 and up indicate high erodability potential.  There are certain soils in the Project area that are classified as highly erodable, specifically near Spicer Creek and Big Sixmile Creeks on Grand Island.  Shown in Figure 3.2.2 are the detailed soil types on Grand Island.  Notice the Schoharie silty clay loam type (K = 0.49), which is classified as highly erodable, along the shoreline of Spicer Creek and Big Sixmile Creek. 

The type of soil present can also influence surface water quality as can agricultural practice, i.e. application of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer including manure.

3.3         Land Use

As with soil and bedrock characteristics, land use practices in the watershed can affect the surrounding stream’s water quality.  The watersheds of each stream in this study were visited to get a general idea of how land use practices could potentially affect surface water quality.  Such practices include the amount of riparian buffer, erosion control techniques implemented by agricultural use and residential and commercial construction, and amount of impervious surfaces associated with each stream.  As land near streams is cleared for development, more stormwater runoff and erosion occurs because there is less vegetation to slow water as it runs downhill and more sediment is washed into streams.  Stream ‘flashiness’ can also increase as a result of development due to decreased absorption and retention time of precipitation in soils.  Site visits were made in October 2003 to identify areas of current and potential erosion as well as land use practices that could possibly affect surface water quality along several creeks in the study area.  This section includes photographs of some common land use practices that could contribute to high turbidity in the study area creeks.  There were other areas of current and potential erosion identified during the site visit, however the examples presented here are representative of conditions in study area creeks.

Grand Island is an expanding and largely residential community.  Land use on Grand Island consists primarily of residential housing developments, small commercial areas, wetlands, fields, and forests.  There are currently several new housing developments under construction and more land is being cleared.  Big Sixmile Creek begins in the southern portion of Grand Island and flows northwest to its mouth at the western side of the island.  It flows primarily through residential areas, fields, and wetlands.  Figure 3.3-1 shows a drainage ditch dug along a field bordering Staley Road that could potentially be a source of sediment contributing to high turbidity in Big Sixmile Creek upstream.  Agricultural drainage ditches are common not only on Grand Island but in the entire study area and supply a significant amount of sediment to local waters. 

Spicer Creek also begins in the southern portion of Grand Island but flows northeast to its mouth at the eastern side of the island.  It flows mostly through residential backyards and fields but also passes through two currently constructed residential developments and a golf course.  Figure 3.3-2 shows exposed soil in a housing development very nearly bordering the creek that is susceptible to high erosion during heavy rain events. 

Woods Creek begins in the central portion of Grand Island and flows north to its mouth in Buckhorn Marsh.  Woods Creek also flows primarily through residential areas, fields, wetlands, as well as new housing developments.  Figure 3.3-3 shows an example of how land clearing related to new residential developments can expose many acres of soil increasing the susceptibility of the area to runoff and erosion. 

Gun Creek is unique in that it appears to be one of the few tributaries on Grand Island that has not undergone significant alterations to the streambed, even though land use practices in the drainage have changed dramatically over the past 40 years (Kleinschmidt and Riveredge 2004).  Currently the watershed has undergone residential and industrial development but agriculture had largely ceased and much of the land had reverted to old field or forested habitat.  Of particular interest is the re-establishment of the riparian corridor in areas that had once been cleared up to the edge of the Creek (Kleinschmidt and Riveredge 2004).

Gill, Fish, Cayuga, Ellicott, Tonawanda, and Bergholtz Creeks are also affected-to some extent-by agricultural and urban development which can lead to increased turbidity at times when precipitation and runoff are occurring.  Agricultural runoff can boost nutrient levels and spur algal blooms while choking the creeks with sediment and deposition.  As the creeks flow through urban areas, they often receive heavy stormwater runoff that can include pollution from local roads and parking lots. 

3.4         Surface Water Discharges

Discharges to the Niagara River have both point and nonpoint sources.  Nonpoint sources are discharge sources not traceable to a pipe, such as agricultural and urban runoff, and these types of inputs to streams are somewhat dependent on surrounding land use, as mentioned.  Important point-source discharges include manufacturing plants, municipal wastewater treatment plants, and hazardous waste management facilities.  As authorized by the Clean Water Act, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.  Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches.  In New York State the NPDES permit program is administered by the NYSDEC according to the State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit program.  Table 3.4-1 provides a list of significant United States point-source discharges and includes the average flow, in millions of gallons per day that a permitted facility was designed to accommodate.  For example, the design flow for the Niagara Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) is 48 MGD.  Figure 3.4-1 shows the current SPDES discharge locations. 

Several U.S. industrial plants discharge their wastewater into the Niagara Falls WWTP, from which treated effluent is discharged into the Niagara River.  In the past, this treatment plant has discharged a considerable amount of priority pollutants into the river.  Priority pollutants are chemicals that the USEPA considers to be of concern because they have been detected at levels above some human health or environmental protection criterion, or are considered to pose a human health or environmental risk.  Many are persistent (remaining in the water, sediment, and biota for long periods) and bioaccumulative (their concentrations tending to build up in aquatic and other organisms over time).  In recent years, however, control measures have been implemented to reduce the concentrations of these pollutants in discharge from the Niagara Falls WWTP (USEPA and NYSDEC 2003).

Besides the Niagara Falls WWTP, the Falls Street Tunnel, a major unlined industrial sewer cut through bedrock, was also identified as the major source of pollutants to the Niagara River in the mid-1980s.  This tunnel currently receives overflows of wastewater from the sewers of the Niagara Falls industrial area, and also receives seepage of contaminated groundwater polluted by area industry.  According to the City of Niagara Falls’s SPDES permit (NY 0026336), during dry weather all Falls Street Tunnel flows shall be directed to the WWTP.  The Falls Street Tunnel discharge point is permitted as a combined sewer overflow, so some wet weather flow may bypass treatment and directly enter the river.

During wet weather, stormwater runoff can also enter the river or creeks by way of stormwater culverts or combined sewer overflows (CSOs).  Figure 3.4-2 shows an example of a very large stormwater culvert entering Cayuga Creek in the vicinity of Tuscarora Road.  Figure 3.4-3 shows the CSOs along the Niagara River for the City of Niagara Falls (NYSDEC 2003).  In addition to particulate matter, CSO discharges can add harmful biological and chemical agents to the River because these flows are essentially causing wastewater to bypass treatment facilities.

Table 3.4-2 is a list of Canadian point discharges and loadings to the Niagara River.  This table lists the significant discharges in Canada and their combined loadings of the 18 “priority toxic pollutants” (see Table 2.2-1) identified in the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan (Holland 1996).

While point discharges are usually minimal in relation to total flow in the Niagara River, they can have a noticeable effect on flow in smaller streams. An example of such is the Redland Quarry, an operating limestone mine in the Cayuga Creek watershed with a reported maximum depth of 140 feet below ground surface (approximately El. 484 feet).  It is located approximately 7,500 feet southeast of the Lewiston Reservoir.  Groundwater is extracted from sumps in the mine and discharged to a tributary of Cayuga Creek.  The extraction and discharge of groundwater at the mine is regulated by SPDES permit #NY0025267.  The mine is permitted to discharge a maximum of 432,000 gallons of water per day (300 gallons per minute or 0.67 cfs) to Cayuga Creek (URS et al. 2003a).  Cayuga Creek has an estimated annual median flow of 10.7 cfs upstream of the Bergholtz Creek confluence (URS et al. 2004c).

3.5         Groundwater

Groundwater in the study area is primarily contained within a fractured bedrock aquifer known as the Lockport Group.  In many areas, (primarily industrial areas) surface contaminants have migrated to the aquifer and contaminated the groundwater regime.  Because groundwater serves as an important source of flow in many of the creeks in the study area, contaminants from groundwater have the potential to show up in surface water.  The status of the many hazardous waste sites in the Niagara Region is important to this study because many of the remediation efforts have been shown to improve surface water quality conditions of the Niagara River.  Hazardous waste sites were considered the most significant nonpoint source of toxics to the Niagara River (USEPA and NYSDEC 2003).  In a 1988 study (Gradient and GeoTrans 1988), a conservative estimate of potential toxics loadings into the Niagara River from U.S. hazardous waste sites was figured to be 694 lbs/day.  Remedial action is still ongoing at several high priority waste sites; however EPA estimates that current remediations have reduced the potential inputs into the Niagara River by approximately 93%.

Observed Project effects on groundwater include a static (persistent) rise in groundwater elevations in wells near the reservoir and depression of groundwater levels near the conduit drainage system (URS et al. 2003a).  A study to assess the water quality and flow of surface waters receiving groundwater helped determine if Project operations affect the transport of groundwater contaminants (URS et al. 2004b). 

3.6         Benthic Sediment Quality

Contaminated sediments can serve as diffuse sources of contamination to the overlying water body; slowly releasing the contaminant back into the water column.  However, this process is highly dependent on the properties of the contaminants.  Contamination is a concept that is not always clearly defined relative to sediments.  The mere presence of a substance in sediment could be construed as contamination.  However, the presence of that substance does not necessarily mean it is harmful.  Metals can be present in naturally occurring concentrations (background levels) in species, or forms, that are not harmful to aquatic life.  While there are no naturally occurring background concentrations for synthetic organic compounds, the presence of a synthetic organic compound does not necessarily imply harm (NYSDEC 1999).

 

Table 3.4-1

Major U.S. Surface Water Discharges in the Project Corridor

Facility

Town

Receiving Waters

Flow Limit (MGD)

Niagara Power Project

Lewiston

Niagara River

72.3*

Lewiston Master SD

Lewiston

Niagara River

2.75

SGL Carbon Corp.

Niagara Falls

Niagara River

2.569

Olin Corp - Niagara Falls Plant

Niagara Falls

Niagara River

7.4

E I Dupont - Niagara Falls Plant

Niagara Falls

Niagara River

13.38

Occidental Chemical Corp.

Niagara Falls

Niagara River

37.34

Niagara Falls (C) WWTP

Niagara Falls

Niagara River

48

Occidental Chemical-Durez

North Tonawanda

Niagara River

0.597

North Tonawanda WWTP

North Tonawanda

Niagara River

13

CWM Chemical Services

Town of Porter

Niagara River

1.0

Former Carborundum Complex

Sanborn

Cayuga Creek

0.18

Niagara County WWTP

Wheatfield

Niagara River

14.08

Note:  *The NPP flow limit does not apply to the hydropower discharge, but rather the cooling water discharge.  1 MGD = 1.547 cfs.  (Table continued on next page).

 

Table 3.4-1 (Cont.)

Major U.S. Surface Water Discharges in the Project Corridor

Facility

Town

Receiving Waters

Flow Limit (MGD)

Amherst WWTF

Amherst

Tonawanda Creek

36

FMC Corp-Peroxygen Chemicals

Tonawanda

Niagara River

8.0

GM Powertrain Tonawanda Engine Plant

Tonawanda

Niagara River

24

Huntley Steam Generating Station

Tonawanda

Niagara River

863.8

Tonawanda Coke Corp

Tonawanda

Niagara River

2.652

Tonawanda SD#2 WWTP

Tonawanda

Niagara River

30

Dunlop Tire

Tonawanda

Niagara River

3.81

Invitrogen Corp. - Gibco

Grand Island

Big Sixmile Creek

0.048

Islechem  LLC

Grand Island

Niagara River

0.767

Grand Island WWTP

Grand Island

Niagara River

3.5

Bird Island WWTP

Buffalo

Niagara River

180

Redland Quarry

Niagara

Tributary to Cayuga Creek

0.432

Note:  Data obtained from USEPA Permit Compliance System.

 

Table 3.4-2

Canadian Discharges and Total Loading of Priority Toxics to the Niagara River

COMPANY/SITE

Loadings (kg/day)

Loading (lb/day)

Notes

 

 

 

 

 

Industrial Facilities

 

 

 

Atlas Specialty Steels

0.220

0.485

 

Canadian Occidental

0.001

0.002

Effluent ceased in 1993

Cytec - Welland

0.636

1.402

 

Fleet Industries

0.003

0.007

 

Ford Motor Co. - Niagara Glass Pl.

0.009

0.020

Effluent ceased in March 1994

Gencorp Inc.

0.016

0.035

 

Geon Canada

0.029

0.064

 

Norton Advanced Ceramics

0.012

0.026

 

Stelpipe Welland Tubes

0.020

0.044

 

Washington Mills Ltd.

0.032

0.071

 

Washington Mills Electro Minerals

0.049

0.108

 

TOTAL

 

1.027

2.265

 

 

 

 

 

 

Municipal Facilities

 

 

 

Fort Erie WPCP

0.390

0.860

 

Niagara Falls WPCP

0.726

1.601

 

Port Robinson Lagoons

0.028

0.062

 

Queenston WPCP

0.003

0.007

 

Stanley Ave. CSO

0.100

0.221

 

Stevensville-Douglastown Lagoons

0.036

0.079

 

Welland WPCP

0.521

1.149

 

TOTAL

 

1.804

3.978

 

Note:  Source:  Environment Canada - Ontario Region, Water Issues Division.  The Niagara River Digital Atlas (Holland 1996).

 

Figure 3.2-1

General Soils Map

 

Figure 3.2-2

Detailed Soils on Grand Island, NY

 

Figure 3.3-1

Drainage Ditch near Big Sixmile Creek

Note:  Photo taken just west of where Big Sixmile Creek crosses Staley Road on October 28, 2003.

 

Figure 3.3-2

Residential Development near Spicer Creek

Note:  Photo taken on October 28, 2003 from Bonny Woods Drive in a new residential housing development, Spicer Creek flows toward culvert.

 

Figure 3.3-3

Residential Development near Woods Creek

Note:  Woods Creek flows from left to right behind this development.  Photo taken on October 28, 2003 from a new road (Majestic Woods) near Stony Point Road.

 

Figure 3.4-1

Major Surface Water Discharge Locations in the Niagara River Basin

.

 

Figure 3.4-2

Stormwater Outfall on Cayuga Creek

Note:  Photograph taken facing downstream on Cayuga Creek on September 11, 2003.  There are three culverts in the background along the creek.  Culverts are located near the intersection of Tuscarora Drive South and Richmond Avenue in the Town of Niagara.

 

Figure 3.4-3

Combined Sewer Overflow Locations in the City of Niagara Falls, NY

 

4.0     METHODOLOGY FOR 2003 DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSES

Collection methods for continuous water level data and discrete sampling of dissolved oxygen, water temperature and turbidity as well as the methods used by URS to collect analytical surface water quality samples is presented in this section. 

4.1         Continuous Water Level Data

Water surface elevations were collected on a 15-minute time step at 25 temporary locations during 2003 using In-Situ miniTROLL, Professional Model (30 psi) data loggers.  These gauges also recorded water temperature on the same time step.  Table 4.1-1 lists the performance specifications (range, resolution and accuracy) for the monitoring equipment used in this study. 

Temporary water level gauges were placed in protective PVC housings attached vertically to support stakes driven into the sediment, or to other fixed structures (e.g., boat docks).  Data retrieval was usually performed once every one to two weeks at each station.  During each site visit, the gauges were inspected, checks were performed to ensure the gauges were operating properly, and appropriate corrective actions taken as needed.  All water level and temperature data were reviewed in order to identify erroneous or suspect data. 

Water level data collected from several permanent gauges were also used to determine conditions in the upper Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir and Lake Ontario.  Water level data from Lewiston Reservoir, Material Dock, Slater’s Point, NYPA Intake, Tonawanda Island, Huntley, Black Creek, Frenchman’s Creek, Fort Erie, and Port Weller (Lake Ontario) were used in this analysis.  Streamflow at Fort Erie and the lower Niagara River was used in this analysis.  Generally, temporary water level gauge data were plotted in relation to permanent gauge data in the upper Niagara River, Lake Ontario or Lewiston Reservoir, as appropriate.  The permanent water level gauges are maintained by NYPA, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or Canadian Hydrographic Service (CHS).

Figure 4.1-1 shows an overview of all the temporary and permanent water level gauge locations referred to in this study.  Table 4.1-2 describes the location of each temporary water level gauge and the dissolved oxygen/turbidity collection sites.  With some exceptions, temporary water level gauges were generally installed in March or April and removed by mid-November (unless otherwise noted, all elevations are given in United States Lake Survey Datum 1935).

4.2         Discrete Water Temperature, Turbidity and Dissolved Oxygen Data

Discrete water temperature, turbidity and dissolved oxygen data were collected at 29 sites throughout the study area.  Discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature measurements were collected using a YSI 550A Dissolved Oxygen Instrument.  Discrete turbidity measurements were collected with a HACH 2100P Portable Turbidimeter.  Refer to Table 4.1-1 for the equipment performance specifications. 

Measurements were taken both under dry weather conditions and after wet weather events.  Weather data was obtained from the Niagara Falls International Airport and the Buffalo Niagara International Airport weather stations as shown in Figure 4.1-1.  Dry weather sampling occurred at times when there was no precipitation for at least 3 days prior to sampling.  Wet weather sampling events were targeted to occur within 24 hours of precipitation events.  Weather in the sampling area was at times quite variable from site to site, making it very challenging to define “wet weather” and “dry weather” events.  There were eleven wet weather sampling events, four dry weather events, and two that were classified as variable.  The variable classification was chosen for these two events because there was not a large amount of precipitation, but wind and light precipitation may have been a factor influencing conditions.

Turbidity was reported in nephelometric units (NTUs), which is a measure of the amount of light scattered by suspended particulate material in the water.  This measurement generally provides a very good correlation with the concentration of suspended particulate material in the water, which affects clarity.  At each sampling site, a grab sample was collected and placed into the portable turbidimeter to obtain a reading in accordance with the specifications outlined in the manufacturer’s Instrument and Procedure Manual.  Note that the effects of micro-bubbles in the grab sample can be a source of positive interference in turbidity measurement.  Allowing the sample to stand briefly until no bubbles were observed in the sample diminished these effects.

The following set of figures shows the sampling locations associated with each water body.  Each figure identifies the dissolved oxygen/temperature/turbidity collection sites, any associated permanent and temporary water level gauges, the 2003 surface water chemistry monitoring sites (if appropriate) and any other relevant water quality monitoring stations referenced in this study (e.g., the NYSDEC routine water quality monitoring station at Fort Niagara).  These figures are presented in Figure 4.2-1 through Figure 4.2-12.  The specific figures are as follows: Upper Niagara River (Figure 4.2-1); Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario (Figure 4.2-2); Lewiston Reservoir (Figure 4.2-3); Cayuga Creek (Figure 4.2-4); Fish and Gill Creeks are shown together in Figure 4.2-5; Tonawanda Creek (Figure 4.2-6); Ellicott Creek (Figure 4.2-7); Burnt Ship Creek (Figure 4.2-8), Woods Creek (Figure 4.2-9); Gun Creek (Figure 4.2-10); Spicer Creek (Figure 4.2-11); and Big Sixmile Creek (Figure 4.2-12).

4.3         Data Analysis

Once the water level data were reviewed and verified, data were sorted to obtain hourly water level averages for analyses.  Monthly graphs of hourly water levels and temperature for gauges in the same locale were plotted and reviewed to identify trends caused by natural conditions (e.g., precipitation) and by manmade regulation (e.g., Chippawa-Grass Island Pool regulation).  As mentioned, water levels in the river can naturally rise or fall with increases or decreases in flow caused by precipitation and/or wind or with regulation of water levels in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool.  From the observation of several gauges located along the upper Niagara River, one can identify fluctuations in water level and determine if the cause is due to environmental factors or by regulation of the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool (URS et al. 2003b).  In addition to the monthly water level figures, statistics were generated for each water level gauge based upon the tourist season period (April 1 – October 31).  The median daily water level fluctuation during the tourist season is a good indicator as to the potential effect of flow regulation and power generation on water levels in each target water body.  This is because the median is a measure of the most common condition and this value will mask large water level fluctuations caused by environmental factors such as storms and abnormally high fluctuations due to flow. 

As mentioned, the discrete temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity measurements were collected to correspond with wet weather, dry weather and variable weather events.  The turbidity data was grouped according to weather event (wet/dry, variable excluded from statistics) and minimum, maximum and averages were tabulated.  These data were compared spatially so that an assessment of turbidity sources could be made.  Turbidity at each site was compared during wet weather and dry weather events as well.  Turbidity levels during wet weather events would indicate the extent of external sources of sediment loading to the water body from runoff, for example.  Examining turbidity during dry weather would help determine the possible effect of water level fluctuations on turbidity.  For example, if a sampling site in a creek was affected by water level fluctuations in the Niagara River but the water at the site was relatively clear compared to sites further upstream in each respective creek during dry weather, conclusions can be made as to the potential effects of water level fluctuations on turbidity levels in the respective water bodies.

Given that there is not a numerical standard for turbidity in New York State, a qualitative assessment was used when analyzing those data.  Information gathered in other NYPA relicensing studies was also used to help assess the extent that turbidity in water bodies is affected by water level fluctuations due to U.S./Canadian power generation or by other factors such as high flow events, weather, runoff, etc.  The Shoreline Erosion Report (Baird 2004) was relied on to provide information on detailed erosion sites in the Niagara River and tributaries, and how this may affect turbidity.  Additional factors discussed in Section 3 were also taken into consideration when examining the data. 

Dissolved oxygen and temperature measurements from each creek were assessed in a slightly different manner.  As with turbidity, land use patterns and other riparian factors were examined to determine their potential affect on the dissolved oxygen levels in each water body.  Within each water body, sampling sites were compared to upstream locations to determine background conditions.  These sites were compared to the condition of the downstream sites within the same creek.  Dissolved oxygen data was not grouped by weather event, as was turbidity.  The weather was specified in the comparison table presented in the results for reference only.  However, inferences were made regarding the effects of water level fluctuations on dissolved oxygen levels by examining the patterns observed during dry weather measurements.  The dissolved oxygen measurements were compared to the NYS water quality standards for each respective water body.  By looking at all the available information and making spatial comparison of the data, an assessment on the potential effect of water level fluctuations on water quality was made.  The continuous temperature data collected in 2002-2003 for the relicensing effort (URS 2004) will be relied upon as needed to help ascertain potential effects from water mixing in areas such as at the mouths of tributaries.

4.4         2003 Surface Water Chemistry Data

The analytical surface water sample results referred to in this study from the upper Niagara River, Lewiston Reservoir, forebay and Gill and Fish Creeks were collected as part of the NYPA groundwater investigation (URS et al. 2004b,).  These data are used in this report to describe the water quality in the respective water bodies including an assessment of compliance with NYS surface water quality standards.

Two surface water/groundwater sampling events were performed in 2003.  The first sampling event was conducted from September 24 through October 15, 2003 (two surface water sample locations were partially resampled on October 28, 2003) and the second sampling event was conducted from November 24 through December 19, 2003.  Surface water samples were collected from the same locations a third time in March 2004.  The results from the third round of sampling will be presented in the Groundwater Report (URS et al. 2004b,).

Surface water samples were collected at 11 locations as follows: the forebay (SW03-007), Lewiston Reservoir (SW03-006 and SW03-011), Fish Creek (upstream [SW03-002] and downstream [SW03-001] of the reservoir), Gill Creek (upstream [SW03-003] and downstream [SW03-005] of the reservoir), the wetland area located on the Tuscarora Nation (SW03-004), the 2 conduits at the pump station located near Royal Avenue (SW03-008 and SW03-009), and from the upper Niagara River at the conduit intakes (SW03-010).  These locations are shown in the respective figures located in the previous subsection.  Data collected from the wetland area located on the Tuscarora Nation (SW03-004), and from the conduits (SW03-008 and SW03-009) will not be presented in this report, since these samples are more closely related to groundwater and the results of these data are presented in the groundwater report (URS et al. 2004b). 

Most surface water samples were collected by direct submersion of the sample bottles and capping underwater.  However, the forebay sample (SW03-007) was collected with a disposable polyethylene bailer due to forebay access restrictions.  Following sample collection, the sample bottles were placed in coolers, iced, and transported via courier to Severn Trent Laboratories of Buffalo, New York for analysis.  The surface water samples were analyzed for an extensive list of organic, inorganic, and biological parameters.  The parameters and methods of analysis are summarized in Table 4.4-1. 

The detection limits for most of the parameters were lower than the NYSDEC water quality standards for aquatic health (acute and chronic) and human health (fish consumption).  The detection limits for the following compounds were above the NYSDEC standards:  hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorobutadiene, hexachlorocyclopentadiene, hexachloroethane, pentachlorophenol, DDD, DDE, DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, endosulfan, endrin, heptachlor, heptachlor epoxide, methoxychlor, toxaphene, and PCBs.

4.5         Quality Assurance/Quality Control

Data collected from the temporary water level gauges were referenced to real elevation data collected by field surveys (points usually at the top of the PVC installation housings previously described).  Elevation surveys were conducted once near the beginning of the sampling season and once at the end of the sampling season at each location.  Ending elevation survey data matched beginning elevation survey data, indicating the temporary installations remained at a constant elevation throughout the sampling period.  Field procedures to ensure quality of data were undertaken at each site during data retrieval, which generally occurred every one to two weeks.  The primary procedure used to verify that the temporary gauges were accurately recording data included measuring depth to water from the top of the PVC housing using an electronic water level indicator, and taking a simultaneous measurement of the depth of the water column above the instrument.  The latter measurement was taken with the instrument itself.  Because the distance between the top of the PVC and the instrument remains constant, the sum of the two field measurements should also remain constant, since this sum should be equivalent to the distance between the top of the PVC and the instrument.  Corrective actions (i.e., maintenance, repair or replacement) were taken when field measurements indicated that the instrument may not have been accurately recording data.  The instrument was generally considered to be operating properly if the measurements did not vary by more than 0.10 feet from one retrieval to the next.  The calibration of the temporary water level gauges was checked as per manufacturer’s recommendations before and after deployment, and during deployment as needed. 

Prior to the discrete measurements, dissolved oxygen meters were calibrated according to manufacturer’s recommendations in a 100% water-saturated air environment (i.e., calibration chamber located on the instrument).  Turbidity meters were initially calibrated by the manufacturer.  The calibration of each turbidimeter was also checked prior to each round of field measurements (and, in most instances, at each monitoring location) following the manufacturer’s recommendations.  The turbidity of three standard solutions of known concentration was measured.  The calibration was considered acceptable if the measured turbidity values were within 10% of the known standard values.

Desktop review of the continuous water level and temperature data was undertaken to ensure accuracy of the data.  Data was examined to identify any erroneous patterns from week to week, or in relation to other data collected nearby.  The discrete turbidity and dissolved oxygen data set was also examined by the field supervisor and an independent reviewer to ensure validity.  Data that was found or suspected to be erroneous was not used in this analysis.

Quality control (QC) samples utilized during the groundwater/surface water sampling program included trip blanks, matrix spike (MS)/matrix spike duplicate (MSD) / matrix duplicate (MD) samples, and sampling equipment rinsate blanks.  One trip blank per day was required to accompany the volatile organic analysis (VOA) sample bottles from the field to the analytical laboratory.  However, multiple sampling crews were working at separate locations and samples were being shipped to the analytical laboratory twice per day due to biological parameter method holding times.  Therefore, trip blanks accompanied each separate sampling crew’s VOA bottle shipments to the laboratory (up to 6 separate trip blanks per day).  MS/MSD/MD samples were collected at the rate of 1 per 20 groundwater or surface water samples collected.  Data Validation Reports for the first and second round of analytical sampling are presented in Appendix C.

 

 

Table 4.1-1

Field Equipment Specifications

Parameter

Equipment

Range

Resolution

Accuracy

Dissolved Oxygen

YSI 550A

0-20 mg/L

20-50 mg/L

0.01 mg/L

± 0.3 mg/L or 2% of reading, whichever is greater (6% within 20-50 mg/L range)

Temperature, discrete

YSI 550A

-5 to 45 °C

0.1 °C

± 0.3 °C

Turbidity

HACH 2100P

0-1000 NTU

0.01 NTU on lowest range

± 2% of reading

Water level, continuous

In-Situ miniTROLL, Pro

0-21 meters

1 mm

± 1% of reading

 

 

Table 4.1-2

Temporary Water Level Gauge and DO/Turbidity Collection Sites, 2003

Water Body

Gauge Identification

Turbidity/DO

Location

Upper Niagara River

TUNR-02 (no water level)

X

NYPA Intakes

TUNR-03 (no water level)

X

International Railroad Bridge

TUNR-04 (no water level)

X

Downstream of Woods Creek

Lower Niagara River

LNR-01

X

Upstream of RMNPP tailrace

LNR-02

X

Artpark

LNR-03

 

Lewiston Landing

LNR-04

 

Joseph Davis SP

LNR-05

X

Mouth of lower Niagara River

Lewiston Reservoir

TLEW-01 (no water level)

X

Along the west wall

Buckhorn Marsh

BHM-01

 

Above west weir

BHM-02

 

Above east weir

Burnt Ship Creek

BSC-01

X

Mouth of Burnt Ship Creek

BSC-02

 

Between mouth and I-190

BSC-03

 

West of I-190 bridge

Big Sixmile Creek

SMC-02

X

Mouth of Big Sixmile Creek

SMC-01

X

Upstream of Whitehaven Road

Note:  Gauge identifications correspond with temporary water level gauge and/or temporary temperature gauge locations.  Dissolved oxygen and turbidity measurements were not collected at every temporary gauge site.  Table continued on next page.

 

Table 4.1-2 (Cont.)

Temporary Water Level Gauge and DO/Turbidity Collection Sites, 2003

Water Body

Gauge Identification

Turbidity/DO

Location

Cayuga Creek

CC-01

X

Mouth of Cayuga Creek

CC-02

X

Confluence of Cayuga and Bergholtz Creeks

CC-03

X

Upstream of Porter Road

Ellicott Creek

EC-01

X

Downstream near confluence with Tonawanda Creek

EC-02

X

1.0 mile upstream

EC-03

X

3.3 miles upstream at Niagara Falls Blvd

Fish Creek

TFC-01 (no water level)

X

Upstream of reservoir, on Reservation

TFC-02 (no water level)

X

Downstream of Lewiston Reservoir

Gill Creek

TGLC-01 (no water level)

X

Within the augmentation flow

TGLC-02 (no water level)

X

Upstream of reservoir, on Reservation

TGLC-03 (no water level)

X

Within Gill Creek downstream of former TGLC-02

Gun Creek

GC-01

X

Mouth of Gun Creek

GC-02

X

Upstream in small pond

Spicer Creek

SC-01

X

Near mouth of Spicer Creek

SC-02

X

Upstream of East River Road

Tonawanda Creek

TTC-01 (no water level)

X

Near mouth of Tonawanda Creek

TC-01

X

Upstream in North Tonawanda

Woods Creek

WC-01

X

Near mouth of Woods Creek

WC-02

X

Upstream near Stony Point Road

 

Table 4.4-1

Summary of Surface Water Sample Analytical Parameters

Parameter

Method NumberReference

Target Compound List (TCL) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

SW8260B1

TCL Semivolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)

SW8270C1

TCL Pesticides

SW8081A1

TCL Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

SW80821

Total Arsenic, Cadmium, Calcium, Lead, Magnesium, Potassium, and Sodium

SW60101

Total Mercury

SW7470A1

Methyl Mercury*

USEPA 1630, Modified2

2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)

SW82901

Total Organic Carbon (TOC)

USEPA 415.13

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

USEPA 160.13

Total Suspended Solids (TSS)

USEPA 160.23

Total Hardness

USEPA 130.23

Inorganic Ions (chloride and sulfate)

USEPA 300.03

Alkalinity (carbonate and bicarbonate)

USEPA 310.13

Total Coliforms

SM 9222B4

Heterotrophic Plate Count

SM 9215B4

Fecal Coliform*

SM 9222D4

 

Note:    *Fecal coliform analyses were only performed on the December 2003 surface water samples.

 

References:

1NYSDEC Analytical Services Protocol, June 2000 Edition, which contains Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste: Physical/Chemical Methods (SW846), Third Edition, Final Update III, USEPA, June 1997.

 

2Modified Method 1630, Methyl Mercury in Water by Distillation, Aqueous Ethylation, Purge and Trap, and CVAFS, Draft, USEPA, August 1998.

 

3Methods for the Chemical Analysis of Water and Wastes (MCAWW), EPA/600/4-79/020, revised March 1983.

 

4Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater, 20th Edition, APHA/AWWA/WEF, 1998.

 

 

 

Figure 4.1-1

Map of Temporary and Permanent Water Level Gauges 2003

 

Figure 4.2-1

Upper Niagara River Sampling Locations

.

 

Figure 4.2-2

Lower Niagara River Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-3

Lewiston Reservoir Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-4

Cayuga Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-5

Sampling Locations in Fish and Gill Creeks

 

Figure 4.2-6

Tonawanda Creek Sampling Locations

 

 

Figure 4.2-7

Ellicott Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-8

Burnt Ship Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-9

Woods Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-10

Gun Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-11

Spicer Creek Sampling Locations

 

Figure 4.2-12

Big Sixmile Creek Sampling Locations

 

5.0     RESULTS

This section contains a description of the existing water quality conditions of each target water body based upon data collected as part of the NYPA relicensing effort (data collected from 2000-2003) as well as other recent data collected by state, federal and Canadian agencies as part of their respective monitoring programs.  Results presented in this section are three-fold.  First, the water level fluctuations in each water body will be described using the available data collected with temporary water level gauges in 2003 (no water level data collected in Gill and Fish Creeks).  Second, the turbidity, dissolved oxygen and water temperature data collected in 2003 are presented for each water body so that spatial and temporal comparisons can be made.  Lastly, additional water quality data collected for other relicensing studies by NYPA (EI 2001, URS et al. 2004b, NYPA and Gomez and Sullivan 2004) and other entities (NYSDEC, EC, etc.) will be used to describe existing water quality conditions in each water body and determine compliance with NYS surface water quality standards. 

For reference, Table 5.0-1 lists the median, minimum and maximum daily water level fluctuations during the 2003 tourist season (April 1 – October 31) at each temporary and permanent water level gauge analyzed in this study.  General weather characteristics prior to and during the day of the turbidity and dissolved oxygen measurements are presented in Table 5.0-2.  Precipitation and wind speed, direction and duration were used to classify the DO/turbidity sampling events as “dry weather,” “wet weather,” or “variable”.

5.1         Upper and Lower Niagara River

Section 2.3 provides a good summary of the long-term monitoring efforts in both the upper and lower Niagara River by both NYSDEC and EC.  These data were presented earlier to give an overview of the general trends and water quality conditions in the Niagara River and were compared in this section with recent water quality data collected for this study. 

5.1.1        Upper Niagara River

From the water level information gathered as part of this and previous studies, the effects of U.S./Canadian power generation on water level fluctuations in the mainstem portion of the upper Niagara River can extend as far upstream as the Peace Bridge (URS et al. 2003b).  A typical example of hourly water level fluctuations during tourist season in the upper Niagara River during June 2003 are shown in Figure 5.1.1-1.  Hourly water level fluctuations for the period mid-October through mid-November (when the flow regulations convert from tourist to non-tourist season operations) are shown in Figure 5.1.1-2.  During tourist season, regulation of water levels in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool and differences in daytime and nighttime scenic Falls flows have a larger influence on water levels in the Niagara River at locations closest to the pool (gauges at NYPA Intake, LaSalle, Material Dock and Slater’s Point).  The reason for this is that during non-tourist hours, the pool is maintained at a lower water level so that the scenic Falls flow remains close to 50,000 cfs.  To compensate for water levels lower than the long-term mean specified by the 1993 Directive, the pool elevation is higher during tourist hours.  On a typical day during the tourist season, the water level in the upper Niagara River from the northern tip of Grand Island downstream (the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool) is at its maximum at 7 a.m. EST.  The water level in the pool is drawn down over the course of the day as water is diverted through the intakes for power generation.  It is generally at its lowest level by 9 p.m. EST.  At night, when the flow over Niagara Falls is reduced according to international treaty, coupled with reduced power generation, water is ponded in the pool (URS et al. 2003b).  Refer to Table 5.0-1 for the median daily water level fluctuations at each upper Niagara River permanent gauge during the 2003 tourist season.  As mentioned in Section 3, water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool are limited to 1.5 feet per day.  The magnitude of water level fluctuations due to U.S./Canadian power generation decreases further upstream in the upper Niagara River (URS et al. 2003b). 

Table 5.1.1-1 displays the turbidity measurements collected by URS in the upper Niagara River in 2003 (see Figure 4.2-1 for sampling locations).  Turbidity at the three upper Niagara River sites was always below 4 NTUs during the dry weather sampling events with the exception of a measurement of 16.1 NTU collected at TUNR-02, just upstream of the NYPA Intakes on June 26, 2003.  On this day, there were gusting southwest winds that likely affected the turbidity at this site.  Additionally, field notes indicate that the river was turbid near the shore at this location, but relatively clear further out in the main channel.  The site at TUNR-03 is considered indicative of inflow conditions to the upper Niagara River from Lake Erie, and is under minimal influence of water level fluctuations due to U.S./Canadian power generation.  During wet weather events, turbidity in the upper Niagara River was generally low at each site but higher than turbidity during dry weather events.  There were two occurrences during wet weather sampling when the turbidity values at the site downstream of Woods Creek (TUNR-04) were substantially higher than the other two upper Niagara River sites.  This was observed on July 24 and November 4, 2003, and the same pattern was evident during a variable weather sampling event on October 23, 2003.  During these three events, turbidity values were high in Woods Creek while water levels in the upper Niagara River were fairly constant.  Conversely, on July 11, 2003 during a wet weather event, turbidity was higher at the two sites on the “mainland” side of the upper Niagara River (16.4 NTUs at TUNR-03 and 15.6 NTUs at TUNR-02) as compared to the site downstream of Woods Creek (TUNR-04), which drains off of Grand Island, where turbidity was 2.46 NTUs on that day.  Flow in the upper Niagara River as measured at Fort Erie increased by over 50,000 cfs on July 11, 2003 in response to rain and strong southwesterly winds, subsequently increasing water level elevations throughout the upper Niagara River.  These winds may have had more of an effect on the mainland side of the river due to increased wave action against this shore, as opposed to the Grand Island shore.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in the upper Niagara River are shown in Appendix A.

Dissolved oxygen and temperature were also fairly uniform throughout the three discrete upper Niagara River sampling sites.  Table 5.1.1-2 shows the dissolved oxygen and temperature data collected from these three sites in the upper Niagara River by URS in 2003.  The results show that the upper Niagara River is generally uniform and well oxygenated, with the lowest readings observed in August at TUNR-03 (6.75 mg/L on August 28, 2003), which represents inflow from Lake Erie.  Water temperatures in the upper Niagara River were at their highest point in August, with a maximum water temperature of 25.7 °C at TUNR-02 upstream of the NYPA Intakes on August 19, 2003.  Dissolved oxygen levels were always above the NYS standard for Class A-S waters (6.0 mg/L).  As with turbidity, dissolved oxygen levels in tributaries may affect near shore areas in the upper Niagara River.  Dissolved oxygen levels were lower in the Niagara River downstream of Woods Creek (TUNR-04) after certain wet weather events.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in the upper Niagara River are shown in Appendix A.

Table 5.1.1-3 shows the 2003 analytical surface water sample results collected on October 7 and November 25, 2003 from the upper Niagara River just upstream of the NYPA intakes.  Only those parameters detected are reported.  The results report the average hardness of the upper Niagara River was 146 mg/L, which is considered hard.  Metals, nutrients and biological parameters were all within the standard for Class A-S waters.  Results of the laboratory analyses for organic contaminants revealed all parameters were below the quantitation limit for this site.  See Appendix C for all of the surface water analytical results.  The sample collected at the NYPA Intakes on November 25, 2003 shows that monomethyl mercury was detected at a concentration above the method detection limit (MDL), but below the quantitation limit (QL), that is the parameter was detected in the sample at a level too low to practically quantify.  The result was reported as 0.092 B in nanograms/L, and is a low concentration that is not indicative of significant methylating activity (the formation of methylmercury[JAG3] ) (Tetratech 2004, in prep[SM4] .). 

The results of the November sampling show higher levels of total suspended solids and bacterial and microbial parameters at the upper Niagara River analytical site near the intakes.  This may be due to the fact the strong winds were present in the area the day before sampling.  The heterotrophic plate count (HPC) from the upper Niagara River was as high as 2,500 colony-forming-units (cfu/mL) and the total coliform levels were as high as 580 colonies/100 mL.  The HPC, formerly known as the standard plate count, is a procedure for estimating the number of live heterotrophic bacteria in water.  Heterotrophs are organisms, including bacteria, yeasts and molds that require an external source of organic carbon for growth.  Although most, if not all, bacterial pathogens are heterotrophs, most of the microorganisms detected by the HPC test are not human pathogens, thus the colony counts obtained do not alone normally correlate with the presence of pathogens, in the absence of other indicators of fecal contamination.  While there is no water quality standard, per se, for HPC, the upper limit for potable water is usually 500 cfu/mL (WHO 2003).  Total and fecal coliform were detected in the November sample below NYS water quality standards, but E. coli bacteria was reported as positive in the November sample. 

5.1.2        Lower Niagara River

Typical water level fluctuations in the lower Niagara River during tourist season are shown in Figure 5.1.2-1.  Note that water levels at the Ashland Avenue permanent gauge were 70-80 feet higher in elevation than those measured just upstream of the tailrace at LNR-01 because the gauge is located upstream of the Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole Rapids which account for the drop in elevation (see Figure 4.2-2 for sample locations).   Median water level fluctuations at the Ashland Avenue gauge in the gorge upstream of the tailrace were 11.0 feet during the 2003 tourist season due to changes in the daytime and nighttime Falls Treaty flows.  Just upstream of the tailrace (at LNR-01), the median daily water level fluctuation was 6.9 feet during a portion of the 2003 tourist season (data obtained from June 20 – October 1, 2003).  Downstream of the tailrace, daily water level fluctuations were much less.  The median daily water level fluctuation between August 5 through October 31, 2003 during the tourist season in the lower Niagara River downstream of the tailrace at Artpark (LNR-02) was 1.45 feet (Table 5.0-1).  Data collected prior to August was excluded due to gauge malfunction.  The daily median fluctuation at Artpark in 2003 was consistent with that observed in 2002 at the same location (median daily fluctuation for the 2002 tourist season was 1.5 feet (URS et al. 2003b)).  The magnitude of the daily water level fluctuations decreases as one proceeds downstream near the mouth of the lower Niagara River (LNR-05) where the median daily water level fluctuation was 0.52 feet during the 2003 tourist season (Table 5.0-1).

Table 5.1.2-1 shows the turbidity data collected in the lower Niagara River by URS in 2003.  The river was generally very clear, however turbidity was above 5 NTUs at all three sites in the lower Niagara River during wet weather events on October 2 and 16, 2003.  On these occasions, turbidity levels in the Lewiston Reservoir and at the NYPA intakes were near 3 NTUs or below, whereas turbidity levels upstream of the tailrace at LNR-01 ranged from 5.75 to 6.41 NTUs.  Because of the comparatively lower turbidity levels in the reservoir and at the NYPA Intake (Table 5.1.1-1), the elevated turbidity levels in the lower Niagara River may have been due to combined sewer overflows and/or stormwater discharges to the lower river gorge.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in the lower Niagara River are shown in Appendix A.

Historical turbidity data collected from the Fort Niagara site also show that turbidity values in the lower Niagara River are generally low.  Since NYSDEC started reporting turbidity in NTUs in 1987, values at Fort Niagara were above 5 NTUs in only 9 out of the 77 (12%) measurements taken (maximum value was 15.0 NTUs). 

Discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature measurements collected in the lower Niagara River by URS in 2003 are shown in Table 5.1.2-2.  Dissolved oxygen measurements in the lower Niagara River were always above 7.0 mg/L with the lowest reading (7.86 mg/L) collected at the mouth (LNR-05) on July 24, 2003.  All dissolved oxygen measurements were above the NYS standard for a Class A-S stream (6.0 mg/L). Dissolved oxygen is generally the highest upstream of the tailrace due to the turbulence of the river in the Whirlpool and Devil’s Hole rapids.  Dissolved oxygen levels generally decrease slightly as the river flows northward to the mouth, likely due to the widening of the river and the resultant slower velocities and decreased turbulence.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in the lower Niagara River are shown in Appendix A.

Data collected from the lower Niagara River at Fort Niagara under the NYSDEC monitoring program also indicated that lower Niagara River dissolved oxygen values are very good.  Eighty percent of the dissolved oxygen saturation values from the routine monitoring period fell between 90 and 110% saturation.  Oxygen saturation is calculated as the percentage of dissolved oxygen concentration relative to that when completely saturated for a particular water temperature.  As water temperature increases, the concentration of dissolved oxygen at 100% saturation decreases.  All routine monitoring samples meet the dissolved oxygen water quality standard for Class A-S waters of at least 6 mg/L (refer to Table 2.3-1).   

Water temperatures are also fairly uniform in the lower Niagara River, based upon the discrete measurements.  Because the discrete measurements were taken at different times of the day from site to site, slight variations in water temperatures could be due to the warming effects of solar radiation.  Because of the turbulent, high velocity flow in the portion of the lower Niagara River upstream of the tailrace, the surface waters of the river are well mixed and temperatures remain relatively constant.  

5.2         Lewiston Reservoir

Representative weekly water level fluctuations in Lewiston Reservoir are shown in Figure 5.2-1.  As described in Section 1.3.2, daily drawdown in the reservoir is normally 3-18 feet and weekly drawdown 11-36 feet, depending on the season and river flow.  Weekly drawdowns are typically greater during the tourist season (21-36 feet) than the non-tourist season (11-30 feet) (URS et al. 2003b). 

Table 5.2-1 shows the turbidity data from Lewiston Reservoir collected by URS in 2003 as compared to corresponding data collected just upstream of the NYPA Intakes (see Figure 4.2-3 for sampling locations).  The table shows that the turbidity in Lewiston Reservoir is usually lower than the corresponding measurement taken from the upper Niagara River.  A notable exception to this was on September 11, 2003, during a dry weather event, when the turbidity of the reservoir was 7.08 NTU, compared to 3.35 NTU at the NYPA Intakes.  During and prior to this sampling event, winds were predominantly from the north/northeast.  Since the sampling site is at the southwest end of the reservoir, the wind likely had a localized affect on the turbidity levels at this site.  The lower turbidity usually detected in the reservoir could be a result of natural variability, or partial settling of the suspended matter in the reservoir (Louis Berger 2004).  Also, the fact that samples from the reservoir were collected during generation at the LPGP (as opposed to water from the upper Niagara River being pumped into the reservoir), may explain the variability.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in the Lewiston Reservoir are shown in Appendix A.

Table 5.2-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature data collected from Lewiston Reservoir by URS in 2003 as compared to the corresponding measurements collected from the upper and lower Niagara River.  Samples in the reservoir were taken between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at depths of 22-30 feet.  Dissolved oxygen was usually slightly lower in the reservoir as compared to both the upper and lower Niagara River, likely due to the higher velocities and constant mixing in the upper and lower river.  The lowest reading recorded in the reservoir was 6.83 mg/L collected on July 24, 2003.  All dissolved oxygen measurements were above the standard for a Class A-S surface water body (6.0 mg/L).  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in the Lewiston Reservoir are shown in Appendix A.

The Lewiston Reservoir Fish Survey Report (EI 2001) also indicates that the reservoir was well oxygenated having dissolved oxygen levels ranging from 8.1 to 12.0 mg/L.  The maximum difference between the top and bottom dissolved oxygen measurements in the Lewiston Reservoir during this study was 1.8 mg/L, but differences of less than 1.0 mg/L were more typical.  Data was collected at 8 locations throughout the reservoir in May, July and October of 2000.  Table 5.2-3 displays a summary of the water quality findings as part of this fish survey.

Additionally, the findings of a water quality investigation in 1982-1983 (Ecological Analysts 1984) report that the Lewiston Reservoir was well mixed spatially and vertically, waters were highly oxygenated, slightly alkaline, moderately hard and that nutrient concentrations were low.  Turbidity results were low, ranging from 1-6 NTUs over the survey period, with one observation at mid-depth of 15 NTUs.  Measurements for all parameters including dissolved oxygen, turbidity and nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, chlorophyll a, and coliform bacteria all complied with New York State standards for Class A-Special waters. 

The analytical results from the surface water samples collected at two sites in Lewiston Reservoir on two occasions in 2003 are presented in Table 5.2-4.  Based upon these results, the surface water quality of the Lewiston Reservoir is similar to the upper Niagara River.  The average hardness of the four samples collected from Lewiston Reservoir in 2003 was 137 mg/L.  Metals, nutrients and biological parameters were all within the standards for Class A-S waters.  The sample collected from the east end of the reservoir on October 9, 2003, reports monomethyl mercury was detected at a concentration above the detection limit, but below the quantitation limit; the result was reported as 0.074 B in nanograms/mL.  The results of the laboratory analyses for organic contaminants revealed all parameters were below the quantitation limit for these two sites, except that both of the samples collected in November from the Reservoir detected the pesticide delta-BHC at levels estimated to be 0.040 and 0.043 µg/L.  Note the NYS water quality standard for Health (Fish Consumption) is 0.008 µg/L.  See Appendix C for the complete surface water analytical results. 

5.3         Cayuga Creek

There were three temporary water level gauges installed in Cayuga Creek for the 2003 sampling season.  Discrete turbidity and dissolved oxygen measurements were also collected from each of these sites (see Figure 4.2-4).  Water level fluctuations at the two downstream sites (CC-01 and CC-02) were very similar to the patterns observed at the NYPA Intake permanent water level gauge.  A typical example of water level fluctuations during tourist season in Cayuga Creek can be seen in Figure 5.3-1.  Note that the water levels in the lower sections of Cayuga Creek (CC-01 and CC-02) are usually the highest in the morning during tourist season, due to regulation of water levels in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool. 

The upstream temporary water level gauge (CC-03) was located just upstream of Porter Road and the difference in elevation between this site and CC-02 downstream was approximately 5 feet.  Water level fluctuations similar to those seen downstream at CC-01 and CC-02 and in the upper Niagara River were not observed at CC-03.  NYPA’s Tributary Backwater Report (URS et al. 2004c) shows that Niagara River water levels could potentially have an influence on Cayuga Creek water levels for approximately 10,800 feet upstream of the mouth of Cayuga Creek.  This length would extend to a point approximately 2,000 feet downstream of the Porter Road bridge crossing.  There were daily water level fluctuations of a much smaller magnitude (0.2 feet/day) observed at CC-03, however these fluctuations don’t show the same daily patterns as observed downstream.  The fluctuations at CC-03 were likely the result of a SPDES permitted discharge upstream (Redland Quarry).  The median water level fluctuations for the 2003 sampling period in Cayuga Creek at both CC-01 and CC-02 were 0.94 feet/day.  For comparison, the median water level fluctuation at the upstream site at CC-03 was 0.25 feet/day.  Larger water level fluctuations at CC-03 can be attributed to precipitation.  For example, 0.75 inches of rain at the Niagara Falls Airport on May 23, 2003 caused the water levels at CC-03 to rise by approximately 1.5 feet (see Figure 5.3-1). 

The effect of water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River on Cayuga Creek extends at least to the confluence of Bergholtz Creek.  The estimated annual median flow for Bergholtz Creek is 17.7 cfs compared with Cayuga Creek, which has an estimated average daily median flow of 10.7 cfs upstream of the Bergholtz Creek confluence (URS et al. 2004c).  For that flow, the water levels in Cayuga Creek that correspond to fluctuations of the upper Niagara River are predicted to influence Bergholtz Creek water levels for approximately 11,000 feet upstream of the junction of the two creeks. 

Table 5.3-1 shows the turbidity data collected from Cayuga Creek by URS in 2003.  Turbidity is almost always the highest at CC-02, which is located just downstream of the confluence with Bergholtz Creek and downstream of a CSO within Cayuga Creek (see Figure 3.4-3).  Turbidity was not measured in Bergholtz Creek, however based upon the relatively large amount of flow it provides to Cayuga Creek and visual observations; Bergholtz Creek contributes to the sediment load and turbidity levels in Cayuga Creek downstream.  Data collected upstream of the influence of Niagara River water level fluctuations at CC-03 shows that Cayuga Creek in this location is also relatively turbid, even during dry weather events (the average turbidity during all weather types was 16.7 NTUs).  The effect of upstream turbidity sources on the lower reaches of Cayuga Creek are exemplified on May 7 and June 2, 2003 (after wet weather events), when turbidity measurements were greater than 67 NTUs at CC-01.  On both days, CC-02 turbidity was 113 NTUs and CC-03 was higher than 24 NTUs.  This suggests Bergholtz Creek to be a major contributor of turbidity to Cayuga Creek.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Cayuga Creek are shown in Appendix A.

The NYSDEC also recorded high turbidity values at its station on Cayuga Creek located near the Pine Avenue road crossing in Niagara Falls (see Figure 4.2-4).  The NYSDEC station (C01 on figure) is just upstream of the junction of Bergholtz Creek and is located in the stream reach that is influenced by Niagara River water level fluctuations due to U.S./Canadian power generation and a CSO.  These data report turbidity levels ranging from 7.8 to 19.0 NTUs, with the highest value recorded in spring (May 15, 2001). 

Table 5.3-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected in Cayuga Creek by URS in 2003.  Dissolved oxygen levels were generally the highest upstream at CC-03 with the lowest measurement of 6.57 mg/L taken on July 11, 2003.  Dissolved oxygen levels downstream at CC-02 were consistently lower, ranging from 3.77 to 7.19 mg/L throughout the study.  Two of the 17 measurements collected from CC-02 did not meet the NYS standard for Class C waters (4.0 mg/L).  Improvements were seen at the downstream site at CC-01 where dissolved oxygen levels ranged from 5.00 to 9.43 mg/L.  As with turbidity, Bergholtz Creek located just upstream likely has an effect on dissolved oxygen levels measured at CC-02.  This was evident on June 26, 2003, when dissolved oxygen at CC-02 was 3.84 mg/L, while upstream at CC-03 dissolved oxygen was 8.82 mg/L and downstream at CC-01, dissolved oxygen was 9.17 mg/L (see page 44 in Appendix A).  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Cayuga Creek are shown in Appendix A.  The NYSDEC dissolved oxygen data at C01 ranged from 4.9 mg/L (August 1, 2001) to 8.6 mg/L (May 15, 2001) during the 2001 sampling events. 

Table 5.3-3 shows a summary of the 2001 RIBS data collected by NYSDEC near the Pine Avenue road crossing in Niagara Falls (see Figure 4.2-4).  The results of these four samples collected in 2001 reveal that the creek has very high conductivity (average = 1441 µmhos/cm) and hardness (average = 731 mg/L).  Water with a high hardness can make heavy metals and other toxins such as ammonia less toxic to fish, compared to water of a lower hardness.  Parameters exceeding the standard for Class C waters were total dissolved solids, ammonia and iron.  All four samples collected in 2001 exceeded the standard for total dissolved solids.  Ammonia exceeded the standard of 0.019 mg/L (based on a water temperature of 15°C and a pH of 7.5) three of the four times.  The average level of iron found in Cayuga Creek was 339 µg/L with the standard exceeded in two of three samples (one sample disregarded due to QA problem). 

5.4         Gill Creek

The focus of the surface water quality assessment for Gill Creek was to determine if there was an effect on water quality due to the reservoir augmentation flow.  Both dissolved oxygen/turbidity sites in Gill Creek were located upstream of Hyde Park Lake (see Figure 4.2-5).  Table 5.4-1 shows the turbidity data collected from Gill Creek by URS in 2003.  TGLC-01 was located in the flow augmentation channel from Lewiston Reservoir.  Measurements collected here were for the purpose of describing the conditions of the water entering Gill Creek from the Lewiston Reservoir flow augmentation.  As mentioned, flow from the reservoir was supplied to Gill Creek from June 2 through September 23 in 2003.  There is, however, a small amount of flow provided to Gill Creek from this augmentation channel (presumably groundwater outflow) at times when the 3 cfs is not provided from the reservoir (see Figure 1.3.4-1).  Note the high turbidity measurement (44.7 NTUs) in the flow augmentation on June 2, 2003.  This corresponds to the date when the flow was first provided, suggesting the turbidity is probably due to the flushing of debris out of the flow augmentation culvert.  Turbidity at all other times is below 4 NTUs at this site and less than that at the upstream station(s).  Upstream turbidity measurements provide contrasting results to the measurements taken in the augmentation channel.  TGLC-02 was moved after the June 26, 2003 sampling event because that area went dry; the new location was moved downstream and named TGLC-03.  Turbidity from the upstream sites in Gill Creek was highest after a heavy precipitation event (1.2 inches) on November 4, 2003 measuring 134 NTUs. 

Table 5.4-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected from Gill Creek by URS in 2003.  Dissolved oxygen in the flow augmentation channel at TGLC-01 was always higher than that at the upstream stations, TGLC-02 and TGLC-03.  Keeping in mind that flow from the Lewiston Reservoir was supplied to Gill Creek from June 2 through September 23, dissolved oxygen in the flow augmentation channel at TGLC-01 never fell below 7 mg/L, reading 7.18 mg/L on July 24, 2003.  During this time, the dissolved oxygen and temperature levels of the flow augmentation channel are similar to those in the Lewiston Reservoir.  Note the dramatic decrease in the discrete water temperature readings in the flow augmentation channel from September 16 to September 24, 2003.  The termination of the flow augmentation resulted in a water temperature decrease of 8.7 °C at TGLC-01 between these two dates. 

Dissolved oxygen in Gill Creek upstream of the reservoir fell below 5 mg/L on one occasion during 2003; on October 28, 2003 the dissolved oxygen was 4.07 mg/L.  The NYS standard for dissolved oxygen in Class C water is “at no time shall the dissolved oxygen concentration be less than 4.0 mg/L”.

Analytical surface water sample results collected in October and November 2003 from Gill Creek (SW03-05) along the Lewiston Reservoir approximately 1,500 feet upstream of the flow augmentation channel are shown in Table 5.4-3 (see Figure 4.2-5).  There was no water flowing at the upstream location (SW03-003) in Gill Creek during either sampling event (i.e., only standing, stagnant water was present at this location), therefore, no samples were collected there.  The results of this sampling effort revealed that the upper reaches of Gill Creek have a relatively high hardness of 354 mg/L and contain high levels of mineral parameters such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfate.  Also note the high levels of chloride and bicarbonate, which are found in the area groundwater.  High levels of minerals and hardness indicate geologic forces such as groundwater inflow and leaching from bedrock material influence the water body.  Underlying bedrock in the area of Fish and Gill Creeks is dolostone, which contains high levels of calcium and magnesium and is likely to affect the hardness levels in surface water. The Lockport Dolomite in this area is also known to contain naturally occurring saline groundwater.  The heterotrophic plate count (HPC) from Gill Creek was as high as 1,500 cfu/mL and the total coliform levels were as high as 880 colonies/100 mL.  Fecal coliform and E. coli bacteria were detected positive in the November sample. 

In the sample collected on October 9, 2003 from Gill Creek (SW03-05), total dissolved solids were measured at 546 mg/L, which is in excess of the Class C water quality standard (500 mg/L).  All other parameters that were sampled for in 2003 were in compliance with NYS surface water quality standards.  Volatile organics, semivolatile organics, pesticides, PCBs and dioxins were all non-detect in surface water samples collected from Gill Creek (SW03-05) in October and November 2003.  Complete analytical results are presented in Appendix C. 

5.5         Fish Creek

Fish Creek is a relatively small tributary to the lower Niagara River with headwaters on the Tuscarora Nation.  Flow is seasonal in the upstream portions of the creek.  Although water level data was not collected from Fish Creek, it is apparent that Fish Creek is not affected by water level fluctuations in the lower Niagara River due to the steep outfall nature of the creek as it enters the lower Niagara River.  Sample locations are shown in Figure 4.2-5.

Table 5.5-1 shows the turbidity data collected in Fish Creek by URS in 2003.  In 2003, upstream portions of Fish Creek at TFC-01 dried up around early July prohibiting data collection.  The three measurements collected from TFC-01 in May and June report relatively high turbidity measurements (between 18.2 and 35.1 NTUs).  Downstream of the reservoir, turbidity is variable in Fish Creek, ranging between 3.29 and 50.7 NTUs during wet weather events and between 5.15 and 30.1 NTUs during dry weather events. 

Table 5.5-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature data collected in Fish Creek by URS in 2003.  As apparent by the measurement collected on June 26, 2003 at TFC-01, the creek in this location was drying up and, therefore, dissolved oxygen was very poor and water temperatures were high.  Dissolved oxygen downstream of the reservoir was always well oxygenated throughout the sampling period.  The lowest value recorded was 7.7 mg/L on July 11, 2003.

Water temperatures in Fish Creek both upstream and downstream of the reservoir display similar diurnal patterns associated with daily air temperature patterns.  However, upon examination of the continuous water temperature data collected in 2003, the location downstream of the reservoir (TFC-02) remained consistently cooler compared to upstream (TFC-01).  The lower water temperature downstream of the reservoir suggests an increased contribution to streamflow by the inflow of cooler groundwater (URS et al, 2004 in prep[SM5] .). 

Analytical surface water results from samples collected in October and November 2003 from Fish Creek are shown in Table 5.5-3.  Note that there was no water flowing at the upstream location (SW03-002) during the first sampling event so no sample was collected in October.  The results of this sampling effort revealed that site SW03-001 in Fish Creek (1,300 feet upstream of TFC-02) had a high level of total coliform bacteria (18,000 colonies/100 mL) in the sample collected on October 8, 2003.  The standard for Class C waters is “The monthly median value and more than 20 percent of the samples, from a minimum of five examinations, shall not exceed 2,400 and 5,000, respectively.”  Subsequent results from this site on November 24, 2003, and the upstream site in Fish Creek showed low total and fecal coliform counts.  Additionally, the results for the Lewiston Reservoir samples taken on October 7 and 9, 2003 show total coliform levels of 180 and 600 C/100 mL, respectively while fecal coliform results from the reservoir samples collected on November 24th also met state standards.

Similar to Gill Creek, Fish Creek has a high hardness (267 mg/L) and contains high levels of mineral parameters such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, and sulfate (there are no numeric water quality standards for these parameters).  All other parameters were within water quality standards.  The samples collected from Fish Creek along the reservoir revealed that monomethyl mercury was detected at concentrations above the detection limit, but below the quantitation limit.  The sample collected on November 25, 2003 from Fish Creek upstream of Garlow Road showed the highest level of monomethyl mercury reported as 0.555 nanograms/L.  See Appendix C for complete surface water analytical results.  Volatile organics, semivolatile organics, pesticides, PCBs and dioxins were all non-detect in Fish Creek, with the exception of carbon disulfide and acetone.  Carbon disulfide was found at a concentration of 1.1 µg/L in the sample collected along the reservoir on October 8, 2003.  Also reported in the sample collected from Fish Creek along the reservoir on October 8, 2003 was acetone, reported as 2.4 J µg/L.  “J” indicates that the value is estimated.  It should be noted that acetone is a common laboratory contaminant.

5.6         Tonawanda Creek

Water level fluctuations in Tonawanda Creek up to the water level sampling location at TC-01 (about 4.0 miles upstream of the mouth) are similar with those in the upper Niagara River (see Figure 4.2-6 for sampling location).  The water level elevations in Tonawanda Creek at TC-01 are usually within 0.1-0.2 feet of the permanent water level gauge in the upper Niagara River (GN-Tonawanda) near the mouth of Tonawanda Creek (see Figure 5.6-1).   The median water level fluctuation during the 2003 tourist season was 1.28 feet at the NYPA intake gauge compared with 0.58 feet at the Tonawanda Island gauge and 0.56 feet at TC-01 in Tonawanda Creek.  The lower 11 miles of the creek are part of the New York State Barge Canal.  As mentioned in Section 1.3.6, Tonawanda Creek water may flow into or out of the Niagara River near the mouth of Tonawanda Creek.  During the navigation season (April through November), the level of the Barge Canal is lower than that of the Niagara Riverwhen the guard gate is opened causing the flow of Tonawanda Creek to be reversed towards the east.  1,100 cfs flows from the Niagara River through the canal to the east during navigation season. Tonawanda Creek flows west to the Niagara River when the canal is closed to navigation from December through March.  Due to ice development and safety issues, water level data from Tonawanda Creek was not obtained from the temporary gauge TC-01 during the non-navigation season.

Table 5.6-1 shows the turbidity data collected in Tonawanda Creek by URS in 2003.  Upstream in Tonawanda Creek (TC-01), turbidity was moderate, displaying higher values during wet weather events (average value of 9.6 NTU compared with 4.5 NTU during dry weather).  Downstream, near the mouth of the creek at TTC-01, turbidity values were almost always lower than those upstream, regardless of weather.  Turbidity levels in Tonawanda Creek at the downstream site (TTC-01) were fairly consistent with those in the upper Niagara River (average values were within 1 NTU during both wet and dry weather).  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Tonawanda Creek are shown in Appendix A.

Table 5.6-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected in Tonawanda Creek by URS in 2003.  Tonawanda Creek at the upstream station (TC-01) is generally well oxygenated.  The minimum dissolved oxygen level observed here was 6.92 mg/L on July 11, 2003.  The downstream site in Tonawanda Creek (TTC-01) is also well oxygenated and measurements from both sites were always above the water quality standard of 4.0 mg/L.  Generally, dissolved oxygen levels are consistent from the upper Niagara River to the Tonawanda Creek sites.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in the Tonawanda Creek are shown in Appendix A.  In addition to Ellicott Creek, Tonawanda Creek has two significant tributaries downstream of where the Barge Canal splits and flows north, Bull Creek from the north and Ransom Creek from the south, that contribute flow to the creek. 

The NYSDEC RIBS program has an intensive sampling site (T01) on Tonawanda Creek located in Rapids, NY (about 15 miles upstream of TC-01, see Figure 4.2-6).  NYSDEC 1997 reported, “The stream is very turbid having a brown muddy color year round”.  Data was again collected by NYSDEC from this location on 10 occasions in 2001.  This site is located about 8 miles upstream of the confluence with the NYS Barge Canal and about 20 miles upstream of the mouth.  While this site is well outside the study area and upstream from the effect of water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River, the results of the RIBS sampling effort are useful in describing the general condition of upper reaches of Tonawanda Creek.  These data at station T01 indicate that turbidity was very high in upstream portions of Tonawanda Creek, ranging from 19.2 NTUs on November 11, 2001 to 79.3 NTUs on July 3, 2001.  Dissolved oxygen at station T01 was good ranging from 5.9 mg/L (July 26, 2001) to 13.1 mg/L (April 17, 2001).  Table 5.6-3 shows a summary of the 2001 RIBS data collected by NYSDEC in Tonawanda Creek.  The results show that the creek has very high conductivity and hardness.  Parameters that exceeded NYS standards for Class B waters were total dissolved solids, ammonia, and iron.  Of the ten samples collected in 2001, seven exceeded the standard for total dissolved solids of 500 mg/L.  Ammonia exceeded the water quality standard of 0.019 mg/L in six of the ten samples.  This standard for ammonia was based on a water temperature of 15°C and a pH of 7.5.  The average level of iron found in Tonawanda Creek was very high, averaging 1030 µg/L (standard is 300 µg/L). 

5.7         Ellicott Creek

A typical example of water level fluctuations in Ellicott Creek during tourist season can be seen in Figure 5.7-1.  The patterns of water level elevations throughout Ellicott Creek to the most upstream sampling location at EC-03 are similar with those in the upper Niagara River (see Figure 4.2-7 for sampling locations).  These patterns are also similar to Tonawanda Creek.  The water surface elevations in Ellicott Creek are similar to those in the upper Niagara River due to low gradients, relatively flat topography and a backwater influence from the upper Niagara River. 

Table 5.7-1 shows the discrete turbidity data collected in Ellicott Creek by URS in 2003.  Turbidity levels in Ellicott Creek are usually highest upstream.  The maximum turbidity values at each site in Ellicott Creek all occurred on October 16, 2003, ranging from 29.8 to 33 NTUs.  On this day, the water level in the creek was relatively high and there were strong winds and about ľ inches of rain.  Turbidity levels in Ellicott Creek are consistently the highest at the upstream site during wet weather, while the downstream site turbidity levels are the lowest.  The turbidity throughout the creek during dry weather was usually 15 NTUs or below.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Ellicott Creek are shown in Appendix A.

Table 5.7-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected in Ellicott Creek by URS in 2003.  Compared to the upper Niagara River, dissolved oxygen is usually lower at EC-01 during wet weather events.  Dissolved oxygen levels throughout the creek are spatially variable with no clear patterns evident.  The lowest measurement of 4.49 mg/L was obtained from EC-02, one mile upstream of the mouth during a wet weather event on July 11, 2003.  A storm on this day caused an increase in water levels at all stations in Ellicott Creek of approximately 2 feet and the measurements were collected when water levels were rising.  Water levels in the Niagara River associated with this storm increased by over 2 feet at the Tonawanda gauge as well.  Dissolved oxygen levels throughout the creek never fell below the NYS standard of 4.0 mg/L.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Ellicott Creek are shown in Appendix A.

Table 5.7-3 shows a summary of the 2001 RIBS data collected by NYSDEC RIBS program in 2001 at station E01 (see Figure 4.2-7).  The water quality sampling site was located at the Sheridan Drive road crossing in Amherst, NY.  This site is located about 11 miles upstream of the mouth and provides a good representation of conditions of the creek upstream of the influence of Niagara River water levels.  Of the four samples collected in 2001, turbidity was fairly consistent ranging from 4.5 to 5.8 NTUs.  Dissolved oxygen was good ranging from 7.9 mg/L (August 1, 2001) to 11.3 mg/L (October 30, 2001).  Similar to Tonawanda and Cayuga Creeks, the results revealed that Ellicott Creek has very high conductivity and hardness, however metals concentrations in the water column were not as high.  Parameters that exceeded NYS standards for Class B or C waters were total dissolved solids and ammonia.  All four samples collected from Ellicott Creek in 2001 exceeded the standard for total dissolved solids of 500 mg/L.  Ammonia exceeded the standard of 0.019 mg/L (15°C, pH of 7.5) in two of the four samples.

Water quality samples were also collected from station E01 in 1993-1994 as part of the RIBS Program.  This station received an overall water quality rating of poor by NYSDEC due to moderate macroinvertebrate impacts, slightly impacted fishery and the presence of heavy metals in the sediment.  Surface water parameters of concern included dissolved solids and iron in Ellicott Creek (NYSDEC 1997). 

5.8         Burnt Ship Creek

Burnt Ship Creek has a very low gradient and water surface elevations in the lower reaches of the creek are directly related to the water surface elevation of the upper Niagara River.  Figure 5.8-1 displays typical water level fluctuations in Burnt Ship Creek and shows that water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River cause daily fluctuations of a lower magnitude upstream in the creek.  Note that dissolved oxygen and turbidity data were only collected from the downstream site at BSC-01 (see Figure 4.2-9) because temporary water level gauges installed in 2002 revealed the effect of the upper Niagara River water levels extends to a point up to the west weir on Burnt Ship Creek. 

Table 5.8-1 shows the turbidity data collected near the mouth of Burnt Ship Creek by URS in 2003.  The turbidity of Burnt Ship Creek is relatively moderate, with higher values reported during wet weather events.  The creek is surrounded by Buckhorn Marsh, a freshwater marsh.  The nature of the sediment in Burnt Ship Creek is very mucky, and changes in flow in the creek due to wet weather make the top layer of sediment more susceptible to movement, that could lead to increased turbidity.  The highest turbidity value of 42.1 NTUs was reported on October 23, 2003 during a variable weather event.  During a wet weather event on November 4, 2003, which saw 1.2 inches of rain at Niagara Falls International Airport, turbidity at BSC-01 was 30.7 NTU.  This sample is noteworthy because it was collected during non-tourist season when daily water level fluctuations due to Falls flow regulation and power generation were less than those typically observed during tourist season.  Therefore, this provides a good indication of the effects of precipitation on turbidity levels in Burnt Ship Creek.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Burnt Ship Creek are shown in Appendix A.  Data collected throughout various locations in Burnt Ship Creek west of I-190 during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey revealed the average turbidity value was 7.0 NTUs with measurements ranging from 3.5 to 24.9 NTUs. 

Table 5.8-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature data collected near the mouth of Burnt Ship Creek by URS in 2003.  Dissolved oxygen measured in Burnt Ship Creek ranged from 3.00 to 7.21 mg/L between late June and September.  Dissolved oxygen fell below the 4.0 mg/L standard for Class B waters in New York State on two occasions, once on July 24 (3.00 mg/L) during wet weather and again on August 28, 2003 (3.73 mg/L) when the weather was variable.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Burnt Ship Creek are shown in Appendix A.  Data collected during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey reports low dissolved oxygen in Burnt Ship Creek.  Twice in August, dissolved oxygen was reported to be lower than 1.0 mg/L in Burnt Ship Creek.  Of the 178 measurements collected from various sections of Burnt Ship Creek below the west weir as part of this effort, dissolved oxygen fell below 4.0 mg/L (Class B standard) 41 times or 23% during June, July, August and September. 

In addition to dissolved oxygen, water temperature and turbidity, pH and conductivity data were collected during fisheries studies by NYPA on Grand Island in 2003 (Table 5.8-3).  These data indicate that the tributaries to the upper Niagara River on Grand Island are generally highly conductive, alkaline, with frequently high turbidity and occasionally low dissolved oxygen in places.  Measurements collected from various locations in Burnt Ship Creek below the west weir indicate that this creek had the highest average specific conductivity value (1086 µmhos/cm) of the five creeks studied on Grand Island.  pH in Burnt Ship Creek exceeded 8.5 approximately 6% of the time; all of the creeks on Grand Island experienced pH values higher than the Class B standard of 8.5. 

5.9         Woods Creek

Typical patterns of water level fluctuations in Woods Creek during tourist season are shown in Figure 5.9-1.  At WC-01 near the mouth of Woods Creek, the pattern of water level fluctuations is characteristic of regulation of the water levels in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool.  At the median annual flow rates for the Woods Creek, the Tributary Backwater Report (URS et al. 2004c) estimates that Niagara River water levels could potentially influence Woods Creek water levels for approximately 11,000 feet upstream of the mouth.  This extent would fall between Baseline and Stony Point Roads on Grand Island (see Figure 4.2-8).  WC-02 was installed in Woods Creek upstream of the influence of water level fluctuations in the Chippawa-Grass Island Pool.  There were several occurrences at this location in which water levels increased due to precipitation events. 

Table 5.9-1 shows the turbidity data collected from Woods Creek by URS in 2003.  Woods Creek upstream at WC-02 was usually very turbid with levels always above 10.4 NTUs during wet weather and usually more turbid compared to the downstream site WC-01.  At one point, the creek at this location was not flowing and choked with aquatic vegetation.  Observations made on September 11, 2003 during a dry weather event indicated the water depth was 0.25 feet and the water was not flowing and very cloudy.  The resultant turbidity measurement on this day was 153 NTUs.  Turbidity at TUNR-04, the site in the upper Niagara River just downstream from the mouth of Woods Creek, was always lower than the corresponding measurements taken at both sites in Woods Creek.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Woods Creek are shown in Appendix A.  The data collected during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey show the average turbidity throughout Woods Creek was 32.1 NTUs, ranging between 1.8 and 154 NTUs (Table 5.8-3). 

Table 5.9-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected from Woods Creek by URS in 2003.  During dry weather sampling, dissolved oxygen fell below the standard at the upstream site each of the three times - ranging from 2.71 to 3.99 mg/L.  As noted above, this site experiences low water levels and non-existent velocities during dry weather.  The downstream site (WC-01) and the upper Niagara River site downstream from the mouth of Woods Creek (TUNR-04) were well oxygenated during the dry weather events.  During the wet weather events, WC-02 dissolved oxygen levels were always above the 4.0 mg/L standard and usually lower than the WC-01 downstream values.  There were occasions when the dissolved oxygen levels downstream were lower than those upstream, all occurring during wet weather events.  One such event on October 16, 2003 reported dissolved oxygen levels of 3.3 mg/L at WC-01.  Corresponding dissolved oxygen levels upstream and in the upper Niagara River were 5.85 and 7.85 mg/L, respectively.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Woods Creek are shown in Appendix A.  The minimum dissolved oxygen value of 2.9 mg/L was measured on July 10, 2003 from the lower section of Woods Creek during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey.  Dissolved oxygen fell below 4.0 mg/L only two percent of the time (N= 209) in Woods Creek during this sampling effort (Table 5.8-3).  

Data collected from various locations within Woods Creek during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey shows Woods Creek had an average specific conductivity value of 514 µmhos/cm and pH values exceeded 8.5 approximately 11% of the time (Table 5.8-3). 

A comparison of the discrete temperature measurements shows that WC-02 upstream stays much cooler than the downstream site and the upper Niagara River (Table 5.9-2).  At times in July and August, the water temperatures at WC-02 upstream are more than 5 °C cooler than the corresponding measurement taken downstream, suggesting groundwater influence.

5.10     Gun Creek

Typical patterns of water level fluctuations in Gun Creek during tourist season are shown in Figure 5.10-1.  From the data gathered in 2003, water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River influence water levels throughout Gun Creek up to the site of GC-02/02A-approximately 2,500 feet upstream of the mouth (see Figure 4.2-11).  Water level fluctuations are near identical at the two sites in Gun Creek and mimic the patterns observed at the GN-Tonawanda gauge in the upper Niagara River.  At the estimated annual median flow of 2.7 cfs, the Tributary Backwater study (URS et al. 2004c) estimated Niagara River water levels could potentially influence water levels in Gun Creek for approximately 4,100 feet upstream of the mouth.  This influence would extend to just downstream of the Ransom Road crossing (see Figure 4.2-11). 

Table 5.10-1 shows the turbidity data collected from Gun Creek by URS in 2003.  There were two measurement sites in Gun Creek, one upstream in a ponded area approximately 2,500 feet upstream of the mouth (GC-02/02A) and one site located at the mouth of Gun Creek (GC-01).  During the dry weather events, turbidity was always higher at the upstream site as compared to GC-01 near the mouth.  Wet weather turbidity measurements in Gun Creek were variable with no clear relationships between the two sites.  This is supported upon review of the monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Gun Creek, as shown in Appendix A.  Data collected during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey shows the average turbidity throughout Gun Creek was 19.2 NTUs, ranging between 2.2 and 46.4 NTUs (Table 5.8-3). 

Table 5.10-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature collected from Gun Creek by URS in 2003.  The upstream site in Gun Creek frequently experienced poor dissolved oxygen concentrations.  Seven of the 17 measurements taken upstream (wet and dry weather) fell below the standard of 4.0 mg/L for Class B waters.  Dissolved oxygen concentrations downstream at GC-01 fell below 4.0 mg/L only once, the value was measured at 2.94 mg/L on October 16, 2003 during a wet weather event.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Gun Creek are shown in Appendix A.  The minimum dissolved oxygen value from Gun Creek recorded during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey was 1.9 mg/L, measured on July 7, 2003.  Dissolved oxygen data collected from various locations in Gun Creek from the mouth up to the sampling station at GC-02, fell below 4.0 mg/L over ten percent of the time (N=175) (Table 5.8-3). 

As with the other tributaries to the upper Niagara River on Grand Island, Gun Creek is highly conductive, alkaline, with frequently high turbidity and occasionally low dissolved oxygen in places.  Gun Creek had an average specific conductivity value of 426 µmhos/cm and pH values exceeded 8.5 approximately 14% of the time (Table 5.8-3). 

5.11     Spicer Creek

Spicer Creek has an estimated annual median flow of 2.4 cfs at the mouth.  At the annual median flow, the Tributary Backwater study, (URS et al. 2004c) shows that the influence of Niagara River water levels on levels in Spicer Creek extends approximately 4,600 feet upstream from the mouth.  This extent would fall between the River Road and Whitehaven Road Crossings (see Figure 4.2-10).  However, the culvert at the River Road crossing limits the influence of the Niagara River on Spicer Creek when the upper Niagara River elevations are lower than the culvert inverts.

Water level fluctuations in Spicer Creek are presented in Figures 5.11-1 and 5.11-2.  These figures illustrate how the water level elevation in the upper Niagara River can influence water levels in Spicer Creek at different times of the year.  Water levels at SC-02 upstream of the River Road culverts (approximately 1,100 feet upstream of mouth) are independent of main river fluctuations in May, however when the upper Niagara River and the mouth of Spicer Creek reach a particular elevation in June, water levels in Spicer Creek upstream of the River Road culvert are influenced by fluctuations in the upper Niagara River.  The duration of this effect is unclear due to the malfunctioning water level gauge at SC-02 during July through September.  Both of these sites therefore, have the potential to be influenced by water level fluctuations occurring in the upper Niagara River. 

Table 5.11-1 shows the turbidity data collected from Spicer Creek by URS in 2003.  Spicer Creek was the most turbid of the creeks investigated in 2003.  During all weather types, turbidity at the upstream site (SC-02) was high, ranging from 25.5 to 270 NTUs.  Downstream near the mouth of Spicer Creek, turbidity was also very high during both wet and dry weather events.  Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete turbidity measurements in Spicer Creek are shown in Appendix A.  Turbidity recorded during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey averaged 92.6 NTUs and ranged from 15.2 to 140 NTUs, which is very high in relation to other creeks on Grand Island (data summarized in Table 5.8-3).  Note that the Buckhorn Marsh fish survey turbidity statistics were based on 14 samples collected from April 23 to May 5, 2003, as this was the only other data available. 

Table 5.11-2 shows the discrete dissolved oxygen and temperature data collected from Spicer Creek by URS in 2003.  Water temperatures in Spicer Creek are usually lower at the SC-01 site at the mouth, as compared to the upstream site and the upper Niagara River.  Dissolved oxygen fell below the 4.0 mg/L standard for Class B waters on one occasion at the SC-01 location.  The value reported on September 11, 2003, during a dry weather event was 3.69 mg/L.  This is unusual, because both the upstream site and the upper Niagara River were well oxygenated on that day.  In fact it was common for the upstream site in Spicer Creek to have higher dissolved oxygen readings on the same day as compared to the downstream site; the average dissolved oxygen at SC-02 was almost 1.0 mg/L higher than that downstream.  It should be noted here that Spicer Creek has cooler bottom water at the mouth as compared to the upper Niagara River, possibly due to groundwater infiltration (NYPA 2003). 

Monthly figures showing continuous water level data with discrete dissolved oxygen measurements in Spicer Creek are shown in Appendix A.  The minimum dissolved oxygen value from Spicer Creek recorded during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey was 3.2 mg/L, measured downstream of the East River Road culverts on August 7, 2003.  Of the 171 measurements collected as part of this effort from the mouth of Spicer Creek to a point approximately 400 feet upstream of the sampling station at SC-02, dissolved oxygen fell below 4.0 mg/L (Class B standard) approximately 5% of the time.  The values below 4.0 mg/L occurred throughout June, July and August (Table 5.8-3). 

Table 5.8-3 summarizes the data collected during the 2003 Buckhorn Marsh fish survey.  These data show Spicer Creek had a high specific conductivity (average value of 770 µmhos/cm) and pH values exceeded the pH standard of 8.5 approximately 11% of the time. 

5.12     Big Sixmile Creek

Big Sixmile Creek on Grand Island is the largest U.S. tributary that discharges into the Chippawa channel of the Niagara River.  Typical water level fluctuations in Big Sixmile Creek during tourist season are shown in Figure 5.12-1.  There is a culvert under Whitehaven Road that separates the two sampling sites (see Figure 4.2-12).  Downstream of the culvert, water levels are influenced by water level fluctuations in the upper Niagara River and upstream at location SMC-01 water levels are not normally affected by Niagara River levels.

Table 5.12-1 presents the turbidity data collected from Big Sixmile Creek by URS in 2003.  The upstream site at SMC-01 almost always has a higher turbidity value than the corresponding measurement taken downstream (SMC-02) during all weather conditions.  The lowest value measured upstream was 8.94 NTUs.  Downstream, dry weather measurements at SMC-02 ranged from 4.07 to 10.2 NTUs.  On