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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 Phase I Of Effort Is Now Complete; Army Corps Created & Restored Miles of Wetlands, Removed Invasive Plants To Protect Area Species – Schumer Celebrates Major Milestone & Announces Phase II Dredging & Barrier Construction Will Be Finished This Year 

Schumer: Millions Of Fed Dollars Are Paying Off At Braddock Bay 

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today celebrated the completion of Phase I of the Braddock Bay restoration project to restore 340 acres of wetland, and announced that the Phase II construction of the new barrier beach and boating navigation channel is moving full-steam ahead and will be finished by the end of this year. Schumer secured $9.5 million in federal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) funds to make this project a realty. 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 had lost an estimated 100 acres of wetlands desperately needed for area ecosystems 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 had been dealt a significant blow to its revenue stream and Bay-area property values have been threatened.

Phase I of the project, which is now complete, included restoring and creating wetlands habitat and removing invasive plants from the area to address the environmental concerns. Phase II, set to be completed by the end of this calendar year, includes the dredging of the boat channel and the construction of a barrier to protect the bay from future damage.

“After Braddock Bay suffered critical damage from storms and hurricanes, environmental degradation worsened, boaters cleared out and this once-busting hotspot became practically vacant. That’s why we fought tooth and nail to get this $9.5 million in federal funds. Today, we celebrate the fact that Phase I is already complete, and Phase II is moving full-steam ahead and on schedule. This is a tremendous day for the Braddock Bay area, because this project is well on its way to not only bringing the Bay back to its former glory, but also restoring boating access, creating wildlife habitats and ushering in opportunities to make this area a tourism and recreational magnet,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

Schumer explained that, ever since Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and other storms 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.

Following his push, Schumer was able to secure this $9.5 million in federal funding bring the Braddock Bay restoration project to fruition. Today Schumer celebrated the fact that Phase I of construction is completed. Phase I enabled the USACE to create and restore wetlands habitat as well as remove invasive plants that were harming area ecosystems. Specifically, the USACE dug out 2.15 miles of wetland channels, 14 feet wide and 3 feet deep, in the Bay’s cattail area, and removed invasive plants in order to protect and restore 340 acres of wetlands and create habitats for species. The work created a dozen “potholes” habitat areas along the south end of the Bay. Each “pothole” is over one half acre in size, and are essentially deep round open pools within the wetlands that will provide habitats for beaver and northern pike, which is among the State’s most important sportfish. They will also 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 now allow them to live in more suitable habitats.

Schumer also celebrated the news that Phase II of construction is now underway and scheduled to be completed on time – by the end of this calendar year. Schumer explained that Phase II is using $7.9 million of the total funding to first construct the new barrier beach to replace the barrier that washed away due from storms and erosion over the decades, including the 1972 Hurricane Agnes. The barrier beach will protect the new wetland areas from being washed away. Second, this funding will be used to support the USACE dredging and creating a new, deeper, and wider boating channel in the bay. Once completed, the barrier beach will help protect that channel and mitigate the need to dredge as often. Schumer explained that the USACE will dig out a navigation channel that will be about 200 feet wide and at least 8 feet deep. Sand from the excavation (dredging) will be used to build this barrier beach, which includes 1,675-foot continuous rubble mound breakwater, two 180-foot rubble mound groins, a three-acre headland beach and two 150-foot headland rubble mound breakwaters.

Schumer said this investment is not only helping to restore the ecology of Braddock Bay and improving conditions for boaters and recreational activities, it is also leveraging new business investment. For example, the Town of Greece, which owns the pubic marina on Braddock Bay, is moving forward with plans to hire a Marina operator, who plans to begin in 2017 a $1.7 million renovation of the marina. This plan includes the construction of 100 new docks, a small convenience store as well as a restaurant. 

Finally, Schumer said 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 said the USACE today said it will work with SUNY Brockport to provide monitoring of the bay over the next few years to ensure it is working and the bay’s ecological restoration is coming to fruition.  This monitoring is important in order to once and for all help de-list the Rochester Embayment as an EPA Great Lakes Area of Concern (AOC), a designation applied by the EPA to the approximately 30 areas within the Great Lakes that have the worse environmental degradation. The lack of healthy wetlands and habitats is the last remaining reason why the federal EPA continues to designate the Rochester Embayment as one of only two Lake Ontario AOCs when it comes to the worst environmental areas that need remediation. This restoration project is expected to be the final remedial action that needs to be completed in order for the EPA 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.