The seasonal lowering and emptying of the water reserves within the reservoir expose land that is unprotected to weather elements for part of the year. This annual exposure makes it difficult for natural vegetation to grow, which increases rates of erosion throughout the reservoir. Additionally, frequent water-level fluctuations (daily) caused by the hydro-power facility operations erodes the entire shoreline. Our culturally important, native plants that grow along Ohi:yo' are also at risk and lost due to erosion. Many of these plant species, such as sassafras, are used by our Seneca people for medicinal purposes.
Erosion at Highbanks has been documented since the 1980s. One of the environmental consequences of the severe erosion at Highbanks has been the loss of two Bald Eagle nesting trees. According to the Watershed Resources Working Group, a technical advisory board to the Seneca Nation's Council, there have been no more reports of nesting activity along Highbanks shoreline.
Highbanks and Highbanks Campground, a popular recreational area along our river, is located on the outer bank of a large bend in Ohi:yo' and sits opposite of Quaker Run. The moving river channel is adjacent to Highbanks boat launch.