A 2-year study of the water resources of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) in western New York was carried out in 2009-2010 in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist the Refuge in the development of a 15-year Comprehensive Conservtion plan. The study focused on Oak Orchard Creek, which flows through the Refuge, the groundwater resources that underlie the Refuge, and the possible changes to these resources related to the potential development of a bedrock quarry along the northern side of the Refuge. Oak Orchard Creek was monitored seasonally for flow and water quality; four tributary streams, which flowed only during early spring, also were monitored. A continuous streamgage was operated on Oak Orchard Creek, just north of the Refuge at Harrison Road. Four bedrock wells were drilled within the Refuge to determine the type and thickness of unconsolidated glacial sediments and to characterize the thickness and type of bedrock units beneath the Refuge, primarily the Lockport Dolomite. Water levels were monitored in 17 wells within and adjacent to the Refuge and water-quality samples were collected from 11 wells and 6 springs and analyzed for physical properties, nutrients, major ions, and trace metals. Flow in Oak Orchard Creek is from two different sources. During spring runoff, flow from the Onondaga Limestone Escarpment, several miles south of the Refuge, supplements surface-water runoff and groundwater discharge from the Salina Group to the south and east of the Refuge. Flow to Oak Orchard Creek also comes from surface-water runoff from the Lockport Dolomite Escarpment, north of the Refuge, and from groundwater discharging from the Lockport Dolomite and unconsolidated deposits that overlie the Lockport Dolomite. During the summer and fall low-flow period, only small quantities of groundwater flow from the Salina shales and Lockport Dolomite bedrock and the unconsolidated sediments that overlie them; most of this flow is lost to wetland evapotranspiration, and the remainder enters Oak Orchard Creek. Water quality in the Oak Orchard Creek is affected not only by these groundwater sources but also by surface runoff from agricultural areas and the New York State Wildlife Management Area east of the Refuge. Based on the results of the drilling program, the Lockport Dolomite underlies nearly all the Refuge. The Refuge wetlands lie within a bedrock trough between the Lockport Dolomite and Onondaga Limestone Escarpments, to the north and south, respectively. This bedrock trough was filled with mostly fine-grained sediments when Glacial Lake Tonawanda was present following the last period of glaciation. These fine-grained sediments became the substrate on which the wetlands were formed along Oak Orchard Creek and nearby Tonawanda Creek, to the south and west. Water quality in the unconsolidated and bedrock aquifers is variable; poor quality water (sulfide-rich "black water") generally is present south of Oak Orchard Creek and better quality water to the north where the Lockport Dolomite is close to the land surface. A set of springs, the Oak Orchard Acid Springs, is present within the Refuge; the springs are considered unique in New York State because of their naturally low pH (approximately 2.0) and their continual discharge of natural gas. The potential development of a bedrock quarry in the Lockport Dolomite bedrock along the northern border of the Refuge may affect the nearby Refuge wetlands. The extent of drawdown needed to actively quarry the bedrock could change the local hydrology and affect groundwater-flow directions and rates, primarily in the Lockport Dolomite bedrock and possibly the Oak Orchard Acid Springs area, farther to the south. The effect on the volume of flow in Oak Orchard Creek would probably be minimal as a result of the poor interaction between the surface-water and the groundwater systems. Of greater potential effect will be the possible change in the quality of water flowing into the Refuge from the discharge of groundwater during dewatering operations at the quarry; this discharge will flow into the northern part of the Refuge and affect the quantity and quality of wetland areas downstream from the quarry discharge. These changes may affect wetland management activities because of the potential for poorquality water to affect the ecology of the wetlands and the wildlife that use these wetlands.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water resources of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Genesee and Orleans counties, New York 2008-2010