SCHUMER ANNOUNCES, AFTER HIS PUSH, FEDS HAVE AGREED TO MOVE FORWARD WITH KEY DESIGN PHASE OF BRADDOCK BAY PROJECT TO BUILD NEW BARRIER BEACH & RESTORE WETLANDS – PROJECT WILL RETURN ACCESS TO LAKE ONTARIO FOR BOATERS & GAME FISHERS, BOOST PROPERTY VALUES; SCHUMER VOWS TO FIGHT FOR MORE FUNDS FOR CONSTURCTION PHASE
After Erosion of Former Barrier Beach, Lake Ontario Sand Has Made Bay Too Shallow & Sometimes Dangerous for Boaters to Reach Lake – Schumer Urged Feds to Fund Braddock Bay Project To Address Drop in Number of Boaters, Game Fishers & Support Property Values for Approximately 100 Homes on the Bay
Following Schumer’s Push, Feds Have Agreed To Allocate First $575K For Final Design Phase of Project – Schumer to Continue Pushing EPA To Fund $7-9 Million More in Construction Costs; Plan Will Help Open Navigation Channels for Boaters, Create New Fish Spawning Areas for Game Fishing, Restore and Protect Local Wetlands and Wildlife
Schumer: Restoring Braddock Bay a Vital Mission for Local Environment, Boating Community and Health of the Rochester-Area Great Lakes Economy
Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will allocate $575,000 in federal funds to initiate the final design phase of the Braddock Bay restoration project. Specifically, the EPA funding will go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to flesh out and complete the design of the preferred project alternative, an approximately $9M plan to combat invasive species, conduct wetland channeling and potholing, and construct a new beach barrier so that any bay improvements would not be soon washed away. The design phase is expected to be completed by September 2015. EPA’s decision to get this project underway comes after Schumer visited the Bay back in March and sent a letter to the EPA Administrator, asking her to prioritize the project. Schumer said that EPA’s decision is excellent news for the boating community, environment and local homeowners around Braddock Bay who have suffered from the blockage of the navigation channel and loss of wetland habitats following the erosion of a former barrier beach that had protected the bay from Lake Ontario’s rougher waters. The plan being designed will protect the bay from severe damages caused by Lake Ontario and make the bay more accessible to boaters, fishers, residents, and recreational users, all while better protecting the environment. The initial funding for this project will come from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which received additional funds, thanks to Schumer’s push, as part of the recently-passed Water Resources Reform & Development Act. Schumer said he will continue pushing the EPA to provide the additional $7-9 million in construction costs in order to make the Braddock Bay restoration a reality. Once hailed as a boater’s paradise, local recreational boating has declined over the past decade as the bay has become increasingly too shallow to navigate; over the past decade the number of regular boaters has declined by roughly 300-350. In addition, there are approximately 100 homeowners with docks on the bay whose property value is threatened by the Bay’s decline.
“Braddock Bay was once a boater’s paradise, and I am confident it will be again. And we are on our way there thanks to the EPA, who I commend for taking this critical step toward making the restoration of Braddock Bay a reality,” said Schumer. “Once final design plans are in place toward the end of next year, the only step remaining will be to secure the funding for the construction phase of the project, and I will continue to stay on EPA to make sure they recognize how much of a priority this should be. This project would not only help the local economy and increase the value of nearby homes, it would have significant environmental benefits by restoring habitats for native wildlife. It’s a win for everyone involved and we must keep the momentum going.”
With funding provided by the EPA beginning in January 2013, the USACE developed three proposed alternative Braddock Bay Restoration plans, including a "No Action Alternative,” “Alternative 3,” an approximately $1.2M proposal which only included channeling and potholing to promote wetlands restoration and “Alternative 7c,” which is the USACE's preferred alternative and proposed an approximately $9M plan to treat invasive species, conduct wetland channeling and potholing, and construct a new beach barrier so that any bay improvements would not be soon washed away. This project is supported by the Town of Greece, the local boating and marina community. As of February 27, 2014, the Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee, which helps direct the environmental restoration of local waters, formally confirmed its support of the preferred alternative 7c.
Schumer explained that the key feature of this Braddock Bay plan is the reconstruction of a barrier beach on the bay’s east end to prevent rough tides from Lake Ontario from washing sediment into the bay and to allow currents from Salmon Creek and Buttonwood Creek which empty into the bay to more forcefully direct sediment out of the bay. The barrier beach will also help protect the bay from Nor’easter storms that can often come through the area and damage the bay. With the beach barrier, a Nor’easter or similar storm would be more likely to deposit sand on the new beach, which will be a benefit rather than a detraction. The beach itself could provide future opportunities for recreation as well as new wildlife habitats.
Ever since Hurricane Agnes in 1972 destroyed a large section of the barrier beach, Braddock Bay has endured damage from Lake Ontario which has contributed to today's shallow conditions. Historically, the average depth of the bay was 10 to 12 feet, but recently average depths are as low as 2 feet. These shallow depths have stranded boats and caused an exodus of recreational boaters from the bay – the local marina has reported a 90% drop since 2005 – which has hurt the local marina and threatened property values of homes along the bay. Reconstructing a new sand beach barrier to protect the bay's navigation channels from clogging up with sediment would help attract boaters back to Braddock Bay, providing a boost to the local economy.
Finally, the project will restore wetlands, and create new channels and deeper “potholes” areas in the bay where wetlands and marine wildlife could repopulate. This would boost animal populations like the Northern Pike, which is among the State’s most important sportfish and bird species like the Black Tern and help delist the Rochester Embayment as a Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC). The Braddock Bay Bird Conservation Area is a world renowned bird watching region and attracts bird enthusiasts from around the nation and world which helps support the local economy.
Schumer visited Braddock Bay in March to push the EPA to select the preferred project for funding. At the time, Schumer vowed to fight for more funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to increase the chances for the Braddock Bay project to receive full funding throughout the completion. The Army Corps estimates that construction can begin in twelve months once the design phase is completed and construction funding is approved.
A copy of Senator Schumer’s initial letter to the EPA appears below:
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
I am writing in support of the preferred approximately $9 million Braddock Bay Restoration project "Alternative 7c" developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and request the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prioritize it for funding this year through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program. Braddock Bay has long been treasured as a paradise for nature enthusiasts, boaters, fishers, and residents and as one of the last coastal wetlands of its size remaining in Lake Ontario, Braddock Bay is vital to the restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem. For years the Braddock Bay community in the Town of Greece has sought to repair damage caused over several decades that has damaged fish and wildlife habitats, eroded wetlands, enabled invasive species, and hampered local marinas and recreational boating.
To reverse this damage, the USACE's preferred project will construct a new barrier beach, restoring a beach that eroded away decades ago and left the Bay fully exposed to Lake Ontario’s wave action causing erosion and turbidity in the Bay. The new beach will serve as a breakwater to protect the Bay from damage caused by Lake Ontario and protect over 340 acres of coastal wetlands that the Army Corps will restore within the Bay by treating invasive species and channeling and potholing areas in the marsh wetlands to create fish spawning and wildlife habitats. Without the new barrier beach many of the improvements made by the Army Corps will essentially wash away or be undone.
This project is a win-win-win, benefiting the environmental ecosystem, recreation opportunities, and the local economy. Specifically, the barrier beach will aid in the maintenance of the Bay’s navigation channel by helping to block Lake Ontario sediment from washing into the Bay and silting in the navigation channel. Indeed recreational boating and fishing on the Bay has declined over the past decade as the bay has become increasing too shallow to navigate leading to an estimated decline of 300-350 fewer boaters over the past decade. Moreover, the implementation of this restoration will directly help efforts to meet the goal of delisting the Rochester Embayment as an EPA Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC) within this decade. As one of only two Areas of Concern on Lake Ontario, the Rochester AOC suffers from both degradation of fish and wildlife populations and habitats, both which can be addressed by implementing this project. In particular this project will restore habitats for fish species like the Northern Pike which is among New York’s most important sportfish and bird wildlife like the state endangered Black Tern, American Coot and other shorebird species.
This project is supported by the Town of Greece and Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee which concluded it “represents a well balanced approach to remedying the environmental issues affecting Braddock Bay.” The project supports the objectives of the Rochester Embayment Great Lakes Area of Concern Remedial Action Committee and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Focus Area 4 for Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration. With this project, the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area (WMA) has the potential to be the first GLRI site to be recolonized by the now locally-extinct bird, the Black Tern.
I appreciate your consideration and request you approve funding for this project this year to enable construction and implementation to begin in the summer of 2015.
Charles E. Schumer
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