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After Erosion Of Former Barrier Beach, Lake Ontario Sand Pushed into Bay Has Left Boat Channel Only 6 Inches Deep; Too Shallow & Hazardous For Boaters To Reach Lake and Degraded Wetlands

Schumer Successfully Pushed EPA To Fund Entire Braddock Project And Now Greenlight Construction; Previously, Feds Only Agreed To Fund First $575K, Until Schumer Intervened

Schumer: Millions of Dollars from the EPA are Finally on the Way for Braddock Bay

Today, at the Braddock Bay Marina, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally agreed to provide $9.5 million in federal funding to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to construct the Braddock Bay Restoration plan favored by the USACE and the local Rochester community. Schumer explained that, in recent years, Braddock Bay’s barrier beach has been largely washed away and left open to Lake Ontario. Without this much-needed barrier, the Bay has lost an estimated 100 acres of wetlands and sand pushed in from the lake has made it too shallow for most boaters. With a more than 90 percent drop in activity since 2005, the local marina has been dealt a significant blow to its revenue stream and Bay-area property values have been threatened.

In August 2014, the EPA agreed to allocate $575,000 in federal funds to further complete the designs of this plan, but withheld judgement on whether to ultimately approve the project backed by Schumer. As a result, Schumer argued much more federal funding was still needed to make this project a reality and allow the USACE to construct the preferred project alternative – an approximately $9.5 million plan that would restore Braddock Bay’s ecological and recreational benefits by combating invasive species, restoring and protecting 340 acres of wetlands by creating new channels and deep “potholes” within the wetlands to create habitats, dredging out a new deeper navigation channel for boaters and constructing a new beach barrier so that any Bay improvements would not be soon washed away.

“After Braddock Bay suffered critical damage from storms and hurricanes, boaters cleared out and this once-busting hotspot became practically vacant,” said Senator Schumer. “This $9.5 million investment will not only bring the Bay back to its former glory, but it will restore boating access, create wildlife habitats and bring opportunities to makes this a tourism and recreational magnet.”

Following his push, Schumer was able to secure this $9.5 million in federal funding that will finally enable the USACE to construct and complete the Braddock Bay Restoration project, which will improve the bay’s ecosystem and restore it to the boaters’ paradise it once was for homeowners and recreation users alike. Previously, in August 2014, Schumer announced that the EPA agreed to allocate $575,000 in federal funds to initiate the final design phase of the Braddock Bay restoration project. The initial funding for this project came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which received additional funds last year, thanks to Schumer’s push, as part of the recently-passed Water Resources Reform & Development Act. At the time, Schumer also vowed to continue pushing the EPA to provide the additional $7-9 million in construction costs in order to make the Braddock Bay restoration a reality. This additional $9.5 million in federal funds will also come from the GLRI program.

Schumer explained that, ever since Hurricane Agnes in 1972 destroyed a large section of the barrier beach that used to separate Braddock Bay from Lake Ontario, it has endured significant damage from this Great Lake. Hurricane Agnes, along with small, more frequent Nor’easter storms, have also managed to wash away much of the barrier beach in recent years. As a result, without this barrier beach, the sand from Lake Ontario has washed into the Bay, leaving it too shallow for most boaters. In recent years, the channel can has become as shallow as just six inches below the low water mark. These waters have stranded boats and caused an exodus of recreational boaters from the Bay, in addition to decreasing local residents’ property values. Over the past decade, the number of regular boaters has dropped by roughly 300-350, and there are approximately 100 homeowners with docks on the Bay whose property value has been threatened by the decline. Overall, the local marina has reported a 90 percent drop since 2005.

Schumer said this project would allow the USACE to dredge 12,000 cubic yards of sand from the bay to create a new, deeper navigation channel for boaters. This will be more material dredged than the Town of Greece or the Braddock Bay Marina has ever before been able to complete, and will create a channel that is four times deeper and four times wider than the current 6-inch channel that has existed. Schumer said this means that, at current low-water levels of about 3 feet, the new channel would be 5-7 feet deep. In addition, the new channel will be approximately 200 feet wide, four times wider than the current 50-foot width. In the past, the most the Marina or Town has ever removed is 6,000 cubic yards, roughly half of what the USACE will be able to dredge with this federal funding. Schumer said this funding will also allow the USACE to remove several underwater concrete pylons – which were originally the footings for a trolley car railroad track that was used in the early 1900s – in order to further free the channel of boater impediments. The USACE will also reposition the navigation channel of Braddock Bay slightly north so that it will now be in line with a creek that flows into the bay. This will allow the creek to help flush out the channel and make it less likely it will get clogged with sand washed in from Lake Ontario over time.

In addition, Schumer said the USACE will use these federal EPA funds to build a new, man-made barrier beach to restore much of the old beach that has been washed away from Hurricane Agnes and years of Nor’easter storms. The USACE will use the 12,000 cubic yards of material that was dredged from the Bay, plus an additional 14,000 cubic yards of beach sand, and 6,000 tons of stone to build a 2.5-acre barrier beach. This beach is expected to be 1,200 feet long and 200 feet wide, and will protect the new navigation channel and newly restored wetlands from the rigors of Lake Ontario. Schumer said this beach will also be planted with vegetation and become a habitat for more area bird and fish species. The USACE will also dig out 2.15 miles of wetland channels, 14 feet wide and 3 feet deep, in the Bay’s cattail area, and remove invasive plants in order to protect and restore 340 acres of wetlands and create habitats for species. Schumer said that the plan will create a dozen potholes along the south end of the Bay, each over one half acre in size, that are essentially deep round open areas within the wetlands that will provide habitats for northern pike and beaver, and serve as potential nesting areas for the black tern, a threatened and endangered bird that can be seen in the area but has not nested in Braddock Bay since the late 1990's. Opening up these wetland channels will allow them to live in more suitable habitats.

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 allowing currents from Salmon Creek and Buttonwood Creek, which empty into the Bay, to more forcefully direct sediment out of the Bay. This barrier beach will also help protect Braddock Bay from future Nor’easter storms that often come through the area and wreak havoc on the Bay. With this new 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.

Finally, Schumer said the project will help de-list the Rochester Embayment as a Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC). In addition to the declining boater activity and falling property values, without this barrier beach, powerful waves form Lake Ontario have damaged and degraded the Braddock Bay wetlands. Schumer explained these wetlands are needed to boost animal populations like the Northern Pike, which is among the State’s most important sportfish, and bird species like the Black Tern. The Braddock Bay Bird Conservation Area is a world renowned bird watching region that attracts bird enthusiasts from around the nation and world, which helps support the local economy. However, this lack of healthy wetlands and habitats is the main reason why the federal EPA has designated the Rochester Embayment as one of only two AOCs when it comes to the worst environmental areas that need remediation. This restoration project is expected to be final action needed to de-list Rochester as an AOC. Schumer said that, of the 31 AOCs designated by the EPA, only four have ever been cleaned up enough to be removed from the list. This $9.5 million includes funding to monitor the Bay after the project is built to verify that it is working to restore wetlands and to verify that it can be de-listed.

Schumer was joined by EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, local boaters, homeowners, and members of the Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee.

“Lake Ontario is one of New York's most treasured natural resources,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Healthy wetlands help prevent flooding, improve water quality, and provide vital habitats for fish and wildlife. The $9.5 million that EPA is providing to restore the Braddock Bay barrier beach will protect wetlands and help create a healthier, more resilient Lake Ontario.”

“We are very excited that the Bay’s wetlands are being protected with this new jetty, and that the project will improve navigational access from the bay to Lake Ontario. I want to thank Senator Schumer and Greece Supervisor Reilich for their persistence in ensuring that this US Army Corps of Engineer project is constructed,” said Braddock Bay Marina Operator Capt. Steve Gibbs.

“The Town of Greece is pleased and excited that this project will be taking place. Not only will it protect and restore valuable wetland and habitat, but it also will provide a tremendous benefit for the boaters who enjoy the beauty of Braddock Bay. We are very grateful to Senator Schumer for all of his effort, involvement and support to bring this project to fruition. We thank the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, and we look forward to the rejuvenation of Braddock Bay in the very near future,” said Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich.

In terms of next steps, Schumer said the USACE plans to release the bid solicitation in mid-August and is expected to award the winning contractor this coming fall. Construction is slated to begin January 2016, starting with the wetlands work. Construction of the barrier beach and dredging of the navigation channel will then occur in the spring and summer seasons of 2016 and will be completed by fall 2016.

Schumer first became involved in this effort in March 2014, when he visited Braddock Bay to call on EPA to select this $9.5 million “Alternative 7c” plan, which was among three potential plans prepared by the USACE. Schumer also pushed the EPA to allocate the approximately $9 million in federal GLRI program funding to the USACE to construct this locally preferred restoration plan. Schumer explained that, 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 $1.2 million proposal which only included channeling and potholing to promote wetlands restoration, and “Alternative 7c,” which was the USACE’s preferred alternative. This plan was also supported by local officials and proposed an approximately $9 million 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.