|Braddock Bay Project Overview Poster
| Picture taken from southeast section of Braddock Bay marsh looking west across Buttonwood Creek.
| Picture taken from southeast section of Braddock Bay marsh looking southwest.
| Picture taken from northeast portion of Braddock Bay looking east
|Picture taken from southeast section of Braddock Bay marsh looking north.
Braddock Bay Restoration
Braddock Bay is located on the shore of Lake Ontario in the town of Greece, NY and is part of the Rochester Embayment Great Lakes Area of Concern (AoC). Over the last one hundred years, due to wave driven erosion, there has been a gradual loss of the protective barrier beach as well as a loss of approximately 106 acres of wetlands. Also, since Lake Ontario water level regulation began in 1954, decreased fluctuations in water levels have resulted in the growth of a cattail monoculture and the loss of diverse habitat that once existed.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District has completed a feasibility study to identifying a plan for ecosystem restoration at Braddock Bay, Monroe County, NY. The goal of restoration is to improve habitat diversity of the existing emergent marsh currently dominated by cattail, and to reduce erosion of the existing emergent marsh. The black tern was chosen as a target species for habitat restoration, because it represents a historic habitat no longer present in the bay. This habitat, characterized by diverse aquatic vegetation zones, sedge grass meadows, and open water areas interspersed within a matrix of emergent marsh, will be significantly more ecologically diverse than the existing cattail dominated emergent wetland and would provide high quality habitat for many species of fish and wildlife including American mink and northern pike. The proposed project supports delisting of the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern (AOC) Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) for loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District
1776 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14207
Telephone: 1-800-833-6390 (option 3)
Written comments should reference Braddock Bay Application # 2015-00095 and can be mailed to:
US Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District
(Attn:) Kathleen Buckler
1776 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14207
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Braddock Bay wetlands lack plant diversity and provide poor habitat. Braddock Bay wetlands have become dominated by dense stands of cattail characterized by low native plant diversity and poor suitability for many fish and wildlife species. Sedge-grass meadow communities, important to spawning of northern pike and other fish species when flooded, have been invaded and overtaken by cattail in many areas of Braddock Bay and have become isolated from channels or open water. Expanding cattail has filled in historic channels and reduced the occurrence of open water areas interspersed within the wetland matrix. These interspersed open water areas and their associated transitional habitats are beneficial for water birds and would likely have supported a wider range of plants and animals than the existing monotypic cattail stands. This loss of vegetative and structural diversity has decreased the suitability of habitat, as evidenced by the cessation of black tern nesting since 1998. Research has suggested that the widespread invasion and dominance of cattail across the Great Lakes is attributable to hydrologic modifications; in this case, management of Lake Ontario’s lake levels related to operation of the Moses-Saunders hydro electric dam (Wilcox, et.al, 2008). While altering the management of Lake Ontario water levels is outside of the scope of this project, the proposed measures are aimed to recreate some of the habitat diversity historically present at Braddock Bay and restore its suitability for a wider range of fish and wildlife species.
Braddock Bay has lost 100 acres of wetlands in the last century. This erosion is caused primarily from waves continually impacting the shoreline of the existing wetlands. Aerial imagery and navigation charts indicate a barrier beach and land spit historically enclosed the bay. These geologic features maintained a low energy system within the bay with low erosion. Beginning in the early 1900’s the natural barriers that enclosed and protected Braddock Bay began to erode, increasing the area of bay exposed to the high wave energy of the open lake. Analysis of aerial imagery indicates approximately 106 acres of Braddock Bay’s wetlands have been lost since the early 1900s. The current rate of wetland erosion is estimated at 0.4 -1.0 acres per year. The central wetland of Braddock Bay is currently experiencing the greatest rates of erosion. This erosion is visually apparent along the shoreline of the central wetland.
Wilcox, Douglas A., et al. 2008. "Cattail Invasion of Sedge/grass Meadows in Lake Ontario: Photointerpretation Analysis of Sixteen wetlands over five decades." Journal of Great Lakes Research 34.2 (2008): 301-323.
Figure 1 Recent erosion of Braddock Bay interior wetlands
Figure 2 Characterization of vegetation communities at Braddock Bay
Figure 3 Historic shoreline erosion of Braddock Bay mouth and interior wetlands
The quality of Braddock Bay wetlands will remain low. Dominance by cattail species will continue to suppress habitat diversity and it will remain unsuitable for many fish and wildlife species.
The area of wetlands will continue to decrease as a result of wave driven erosion. Erosion will continue at a rate of 0.4 to 1.0 acres per year resulting in the loss of 21 to 50 acres of emergent wetland over the next 50 years.
Figure 4 Historic and projected erosion of Braddock Bay interior wetlands
No. Erosion of interior wetlands is occurring under existing conditions and there is no evidence that the barrier beach is naturally rebuilding itself to the extent necessary to adequately protect the interior wetlands. Sediment and hydrodynamic modeling conducted during the feasibility study indicate that the existing sand bars forming along the submerged old trolley line foundation do not adequately protect the interior wetlands from erosion. Furthermore, visible evidence of erosion has been observed along the edge of the central cattail mat indicating wetland erosion is occurring under current conditions. Restoring a portion of the barrier beach will reduce the erosion of the interior wetlands as well as helping to maintain a low energy environment within the bay that will improve and expand submerged aquatic vegetation beds. The restored barrier beach will also redirect nearshore sediment to continue down drift (east) past the bay opening, reducing the amount of sediment depositing inside the bay.
USACE analysis of sediment dynamics in the vicinity of Braddock Bay indicate that the recent volume of coarse sediment in the nearshore zone is greatly reduced from historic volumes. In addition, the historic barrier beach was formed by glacial deposits and processes. It is unlikely that the barrier beach would rebuild itself based on geologic origin and the lack of adequate littoral sediment supply. In recent years (2013), large areas of sand bar were visible above the water line in the vicinity of the south jetty. These occurrences are associated with periods of very low water and therefore are not good evidence that the historic barrier beach will naturally reform under current conditions.
This proposed plan will protect and restore a 340 acre wetland ecosystem consisting of 180 acres of emergent marsh and 160 acres of Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV).
The habitat diversity of the existing 180 acre emergent marsh will be restored by approximately 10 acres of channeling and potholing and 5 acres of invasive species treatment. These actions will increase vegetative diversity and improve habitat suitability of Braddock Bay for fish and wildlife including the state endangered black tern, American mink, and northern pike.
The artificial headland beach will protect parts of Braddock Bay from the direct wave energy of the open lake. This will reduce erosion of the existing wetlands and restore Braddock Bay to a low energy system. Lower wave energy and reduced turbidity is expected to result in an increase in the diversity of existing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) community and expansion of existing SAV beds by approximately 15 acres. The restored barrier beach will create an estimated 2.6 acres of shorebird habitat. The restored barrier beach will also partially restore littoral drift functionality by blocking a portion of littoral sediments from entering Braddock Bay and becoming trapped in the bay.
Figure 5 Braddock Bay Proposed Restoration PlanFigure 6 Conceptual rendering of proposed headland beach restoration
In addition to protecting interior wetlands from erosion, the artificial headland beach is also expected to improve near-shore sand transport on Lake Ontario in the vicinity of Braddock Bay. Currently, near-shore sand, moving in an easterly direction down the shoreline, enters the bay and becomes trapped within. Similar to the historic land spits, the restored barrier beach will block some of this littoral sand from entering the bay, allowing it to remain in the near-shore system and provide sand to down drift beaches.
Similar headland breakwater structures have been successfully implemented at other sites on the Great Lakes to create beach shoreline. Since being constructed over twenty years ago, both Sims Beach in Euclid, Ohio and Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio have retained their original shapes and not required any beach nourishment.
Figure 7 Sims Beach, Euclid Ohio in 1992Figure 8 Maumee Bay State Park, Oregon, OH, 1992
Similar channeling and potholing projects have been used at other sites on Lake Ontario to restore wetland diversity and habitat suitably. Excavation of channels and shallow open water areas are proposed as a method to diversify conditions in the emergent wetlands of Braddock Bay that are currently dominated by mono-typic cattail stands. This process, termed channeling and potholing, aims to increase the amount of open water areas interspersed within the wetland complex, allow a pathway for fish to enter the marsh interior and fringe sedge-grass meadows during flooded conditions, and ultimately increase the diversity of wetland habitats present. The variable topography and hydrology created through channeling and potholing will create a wider variety of conditions that can support a greater diversity of emergent, submergent, and sedge-grass meadow plant species within the interior of the marsh. Excavations to restore interspersion have been shown to be beneficial to marsh-nesting birds and increased species richness in cattail/reed dominated wetlands at Long Point, Lake Erie (Schummer, 2012). Similar channeling and potholing activities have been undertaken by The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on other cattail dominated wetlands on Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. USACE has and will continue to coordinate with these agencies to ensure the best technical knowledge is applied to project designs. In October 2014, Tom Jasikoff, manager of the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, stated that the work done there over the last three years to open up the marsh with large open areas to increase diversity and wildlife use of the project has not experienced troubles with invasive species in the areas disturbed as part of the project.
Schummer, M. L., Palframan, J., McNaughton, E., Barney, T., & Petrie, S. A. (2012). Comparisons of Bird, Aquatic Macroinvertebrate, and Plant Communities Among Dredged Ponds and Natural Wetland Habitats at Long Point, Lake Erie, Ontario. Wetlands, 32(5), 945-953.
The proposed restoration will contribute to addressing the “Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat” Beneficial Use Impairment, and support delisting of the Rochester Embayment AoC .
The proposed restoration will reduce the continual loss of existing Braddock Bay wetlands from wave driven erosion, while also increasing the suitability of its habitat for fish and wildlife. The Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Committee sent a letter on February 27, 2014 to NYDEC
supported the proposed restoration actions and described them as “a significant management action needed to remove the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat Beneficial Use Impairment.”
The structural component of the project will be designed to be resilient to potential changing lake levels or more frequent storm events resulting from climate change. The structure would thus reduce erosion and provide protection to Braddock Bay wetlands under current conditions and a variety of possible future conditions.
The elevation of future lake levels is an area of uncertainty. Lake Ontario water levels are currently regulated and will be impacted by climate change. Regulation plans and climate change both have the potential to alter lake level trends and will impact the degree of erosion occurring at the interior wetlands. Under higher lake levels, erosion is likely to be intensified. The proposed barrier beach restoration will help to protect interior wetlands. Lower lake levels will most likely result in less erosion occurring than what is projected in this report. Lower lake levels would also benefit the preferred plan due to an increase in sedimentation along the artificial headland beach. A lake level management plan that resulted in more fluctuations of the water surface would benefit the wetland restoration component of the preferred plan, and create greater diversity in the emergent wetland and increase accessibility to the network of channels and potholes.
The project will be designed to avoid negatively impacting navigation. Historically, about 6,000 - 10,000 cy of fine grained sand has been dredged from navigational channel every 5-10 years. The channel location has been moved to various locations around the bay depending on where the deepest portion of the bay opening to Lake Ontario was located at the time of dredging.
This project is being done under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as part of a partnership between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Town of Greece.
May 7- Public Meeting for Final Design
May 2015 - Sign Interagency Agreement for Construction
August 2015 – Begin Construction
November 2016 – Substantially Complete Construction
Spring 2017 – Final Landscaping and Planting
Summer 2017 – Monitoring and Adaptive Management