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USACE, City of Buffalo Celebrate Protection of Critical Infrastructure at Ralph Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park

New seawall at Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park
New seawall at Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park
BUFFALO, NY — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District and the City of Buffalo recently celebrated completion of the new seawall at Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park. The $10.6-million project included repairs to over 1,300 feet of seawall. The seawall protects one of Buffalo’s most critical pieces of infrastructure, the Col. Francis G. Ward Pumping Station, and one of its most popular recreation spaces, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park, from flooding.

“This project secures a foundation for the transformation of LaSalle Park into the new Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park and protects water supply infrastructure critical to Buffalo residents,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “From the Centennial Park seawall to new projects like the Outer Harbor breakwater, Times Beach, and the habitat restoration initiative adjacent to Wilkeson Pointe, federal investments in projects led by the Army Corps Buffalo District are contributing to a stable, healthy, and vibrant Western New York waterfront.”

“As the nation’s engineers, it’s been especially exciting to work on a coastal infrastructure project that that protects the Col. Ward Pumping Station — one of Western New York’s most historic engineering achievements, and one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure for the City of Buffalo,” said Lt. Col. Eli Adams, Buffalo District Commander. “It’s equally rewarding to know our partnership with the city, the Imagine LaSalle initiative, and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation has helped achieve a vision for Centennial Park that will benefit the community for years to come.”

Construction of the new seawall began in fall 2020 and was completed recently by the Buffalo District and its contractor, Cold Spring Construction Company of Akron, New York.

The pre-existing seawall had deteriorated over time due to Lake Erie ice and wave action. Without replacement, its deterioration would have resulted in critical damage and eventual failure of the pumping station, which provides clean drinking water to more than 250,000 residents and many commercial businesses in the City of Buffalo.

The new seawall design replaced old technology with new for a long-lasting structure able to withstand the forces of Lake Erie, local weather, and heavy use. Steel sheet pile and pipes replaced weathered timber cribbing and wood piling. Engineering soils replaced random industrial fill to improve on-site drainage, and new concrete replaced damaged asphalt.

Designs were also closely coordinated with the $50-million Imagine LaSalle project and the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. The Buffalo District incorporated custom-fabricated railings designed by RWJF’s landscape architecture firm and enlarged the footprint of the seawall’s concrete pad to facilitate alternative future uses as part of the future vision for Centennial Park.

Compared to an estimated $13.6 million to maintain the previous seawall over 50 years, USACE’s project saved taxpayers $3 million in completing the new seawall at a total cost of $10.6 million.

USACE and the City of Buffalo are pursuing additional funding under the Army Corps’ Continuing Authorities Program to design and repair the seawall south of the completed project. This additional work would protect the pumping station’s water filtration area.