Regulatory requirements for environmental restoration of a site encourages the collaboration between developing end uses of the site with restoring, preserving, and connecting natural resources to the site. Specifically, Part 375 defines a "Remedial Program" to include restoration of the environment, and also speaks to groundwater quality restoration, stating restoration of groundwater shall be evaluated to determine the feasibility of measures to restore groundwater quality to meet applicable standards and guidance. Based on the site’s location along the Lake Erie Shoreline, natural feature restoration and resiliency of the shoreline will be evaluated and incorporated as part of the remedial design.
In signing the Remedy Implementation Order Tecumseh committed to a public/private collaboration between themselves, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and other public entities (the “Collaborators”) to evaluate the feasibility, location(s) of, and designs for: on-site areas of habitat creation, restoration and enhancement that will include; structural, environmental and ecological enhancements to the on-site shoreline and surrounding area that will restore the Lackawanna lakeshore to a more natural state, soften the shoreline and provide stability of the slag-cliff face where needed. The development of such enhancements will be compatible with all final remedies and the Collaborators’ shared vision for the planned future use of the site.
In conjunction with the planned future use of the site, a public/private collaboration between Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc., DEC, and other public entities will allow public access to select portions of the site including Smokes Creek and the Lake Erie Waterfront.
The design will evaluate habitat creation, restoration, and enhancement that includes structure, environmental, and ecological enhancements to the on-site shoreline and surrounding area to restore the Lackawanna lakeshore to a more natural state and provide stability of the slag-cliff face when needed. Enhancements may include pollinator gardens, common tern, bank swallow and gull habitat and nesting, and elevated nesting for raptors.
Smokes Creek Habitat Restoration
Based on the priorities identified in these plans and programs, specific ideas to consider for the nearshore, coastal, and riparian areas within the site may include:
- Expansion of nearshore cobble areas suitable for walleye and other native fish species such as white sucker and northern pike. This valuable fishery habitat is very close to the shoreline, in areas where the slag stacks are steep;
- Enhancement of the coastal transition zone habitat, possibly terracing portions of the existing slag bluff and shoreline, combined with soil augmentation and re-vegetation appropriate for bank swallow and chimney swift habitat;
- Enhancement of the Smokes Creek riparian zone through the former Bethlehem Steel property with bank clean-up and stabilization for greater aquatic connectivity into the creek’s headwaters; and
- DEC intends to work with Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc. to provide conceptual renderings of remedial and restoration activities to help the public visualize what work at the site may look like.
Passive Recreation Elements
Passive recreation measures involve to design, implement and maintain in perpetuity on-site areas that provide opportunities for public, and restoration consistent with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or other regional master plans. These measures could potentially include passive recreational items such as a kayak launch and an extension of the Erie County Shoreline Trail (Lackawanna Revitalization Plan, which can be accessed at the following website: http://lackawannany.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/LackDLWRP.pdf).
Examples of passive recreation
Will portions of the Site be available for passive recreational use?
DEC and Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc. have committed to collaborate with the City of Lackawanna, Erie County, and potentially other public entities to develop a Sustainable Restoration Plan. This plan will consider opportunities for public recreation and public access to Lake Erie.
The Sustainable Restoration Plan will evaluate the feasibility, location(s) of and designs for on-site areas of habitat creation, restoration, and structural/ecological/environmental enhancements. To this effect, Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc. has agreed to allow public access to private/publicly funded and private/publicly owned improvements in certain areas of the Site including portions along Smokes Creek and the Lake Erie waterfront. The plan also requires consideration for the design, implementation, and maintenance in perpetuity of:
- On-site public access to Lake Erie (with the goal of preserving, restoring, and connecting the natural resources and resiliency features of NY’s Lake Erie shoreline);
- Areas of habitat creation and restoration of the shoreline and surrounding area; and
Restoration consistent with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative or other regional master plans.
Climate Resiliency and Sustainability
Climate change is a long-term change in the average weather patterns that have come to define local, regional, and global climates. Climate change key indicators include land and ocean temperature increases, rising sea levels, frequency and severity changes in extreme weather such as hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires, droughts, floods and precipitation. The impact of climate change has affected Lake Erie with more severe snows (particularly lake effect snow and rain), the expansion of invasive species that threaten local wildlife, and worsening of algal blooms that can close beaches and threaten drinking water.
Climate resilience is the ability to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to hazardous events, trends, or disturbances related to climate. Disturbances are often associated with acute events – like heavy downpours, hurricanes, or wildfires that are becoming more frequent and severe as the climate changes. Climate resilience also accounts for chronic events like rising sea levels, worsening air quality, and pollution migration.
Remedies at contaminated sites may be vulnerable to the implications of climate change and extreme weather events. The New York State Superfund program developed an approach that raises awareness of these vulnerabilities and applies climate change and weather science as a standard operating practice in cleanup projects. The approach involves periodic screening of remedy vulnerabilities, prioritizing the NYS Superfund program's steps to adapt to a changing climate and identifying adaptation measures to assure climate resilience of NYS Superfund sites such as the former Bethlehem Steel Site.
A Climate Resiliency Plan is required which includes items such as:
- Climate change vulnerability analyses and adaptation planning: identifying hazardous posed by climate change and characterizing the remedy exposure and sensitivity to the hazards;
- Identifying measures that potentially apply to the vulnerabilities in a range of weather/climate scenarios; and
- Selecting and implementing priority adaptation measures for the given remedy.
Climate resiliency measures can address a system’s operating parameters or include installing engineering structures that address vulnerabilities such as on-site power supplies and erosion controls.
Examples of engineered structures include armor, berms, bulkheads, coastal hardening, dams, jetties, levees, retaining walls, rip rap, and seawalls. Definitions of the examples are:
- Coastal Hardening – Installation of structures to stabilize a shoreline and shield it from erosion, this includes the technique of “softening the shoreline”. At this site, softening the shoreline will help reinstate a more natural shoreline;
- Jetties – A structure of concrete and/or rock at the mouth of a river or tidal inlet to help stabilize a navigation channel; and,
- Riprap – A layer, facing or protective mount of stones randomly placed along stream or river banks; a shoreline or a structure to prevent erosion or scouring.
Green remediation is the process of examining the environmental footprint of site cleanup activities and taking steps to minimize that footprint.
DEC’s DER-31 Green Remediation (DEC 2011) requires that green remediation concepts and techniques be considered during all stages of the remedial program. The goal is to improve the sustainability of the cleanup and summarize the net environmental benefit of any implemented green technology. Components may include:
- Maximizing habitat value and creating habitat when possible;
- Fostering green and healthy communities and working landscapes which balance ecological, economic, and social goals;
- Considering the environmental impacts of treatment technologies and remedy stewardship over the long-term;
- Reducing direct and indirect greenhouse gases and other emissions; and
- Reducing waste, increasing recycling, and increasing reuse of materials which would otherwise be considered a waste.