Two years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District began a $10 million project to restore the Braddock Bay ecosystem in Greece, NY. Erosion had washed away emergent wetlands and invasive species dominated the marshes. Today, species-rich native communities blossom with emergent aquatic meadows, and restored beach habitat are visited by a variety of shorebirds including black-bellied plover, Baird’s sandpiper, and the federally endangered piping plover.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Operating Principles are vital to the success of projects like Braddock Bay. Environmental Operating Principles ensure Corps of Engineers missions include totally integrated sustainable environmental practices and contribute to the Corps of Engineers’ success as a national leader in proactive environmental restoration.
Buffalo District successfully executed the Braddock Bay ecosystem restoration project by implementing Environmental Operating Principle #5: Consider the environment in employing a risk management and systems approach throughout the life cycles of projects and programs.
“The project tackled two major issues affecting the Braddock Bay ecosystem: the loss of wetland habitat caused by wave driven erosion, and degradation of the existing habitat due to invasive species,” said Joshua Unghire, Buffalo District biologist. “We adopted an Adaptive Management Plan to deal with uncertainty that comes with addressing these issues over the long-term.”
Adaptive management is doing while learning in the face of uncertain outcomes. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Technical Guide to Adaptive Management, adaptive management is a formal science-based approach to undertaking goal-directed actions with uncertain outcomes and evaluating their results in order to direct future actions.
According to the project’s Feasibility Report, its planning objectives are:
1. Restore wetland and habitat diversity in Braddock Bay to improve its suitability for fish and wildlife including northern pike, American mink, and the state listed black tern during the planning period of 2015-2065.
2. Protect Braddock Bay wetlands from erosion during planning period of 2015 – 2065.
“We reconstructed a historic barrier beach in the mouth of Braddock Bay to successfully complete our objectives,” said Unghire. “At first, we were concerned how the barrier beach would affect nutrient accumulations in the Bay. By taking an adaptive management approach, we decided to alter the barrier beach’s placement to create an open water area that could be excavated to increase water flow into and out of the Bay.”
“Thinking about solutions in an adaptive management framework allowed us to make a small change that was easy to implement and provided additional flexibility in managing the project over its lifecycle,” continued Unghire. “It also didn't add materials or cost to the project.”
The Braddock Bay ecosystem restoration project is a collaborative effort between the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the town of Greece. The Braddock Bay adaptive management plan was developed by Buffalo District’s planning and environmental analysis teams, with input from non-federal partners including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Braddock Bay Advisory Committee, The Rochester Area of Concern Remedial Action Committee, SUNY Brockport, and the Nature Conservancy.
“The Adaptive Management Plan is a tool we’re now handing over to our project partners,” said Unghire. “It will continue to guide us as we move on with the project’s Monitoring and Adaptive Management phase.”
Additional information on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Operating Principles: https://www.usace.army.mil/Missions/Environmental/Environmental-Operating-Principles/
Additional information on the Buffalo District Braddock Bay ecosystem restoration project: https://lrb.usace.afpims.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/District-Projects/Braddock-Bay/