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USACE Buffalo District Inspects Construction Activities at Braddock Bay

Published Feb. 9, 2016
USACE Buffalo District project managers Chris Akios, Sheila Hint, and Joshua Unghire inspect newly formed channels at the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area, Greece, NY.

USACE Buffalo District project managers Chris Akios, Sheila Hint, and Joshua Unghire inspect newly formed channels at the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area, Greece, NY.

Excavators creating channels and potholes in the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area, Greece, NY

Excavators creating channels and potholes in the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area, Greece, NY

Members from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Buffalo District Planning, Environmental Analysis, and Project Management teams conducted an inspection of the construction activities associated with the Braddock Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project, January 29, 2016, located at the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area, Greece, NY.

Along with representatives from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and State University of New York Brockport, the Buffalo District team met with the contractor, Wesson Group LLC of Johnstown, NY to assess construction activities and to provide guidance and feedback.

Through the use of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), requested USACE to develop a study that would evaluate the feasibility of various measures to implement aquatic ecosystem restoration at Braddock Bay. That feasibility study was the first step in the $7.994 million restoration project working to restore Braddock Bay, a 340-acre coastal wetland consisting of 180-acres of emergent marsh and 160-acres of submerged aquatic vegetation.

The plan will restore the emergent marsh through 9.65 acres of channeling and potholing, which will benefit the environmentally sensitive black tern, 5.3 acres of invasive species treatment, and will restore the historic barrier beach through a combination of hard and soft components. 

“The restored barrier beach will reduce wave energy in the bay, thereby protecting the remaining coastal wetlands and facilitating the expansion of wetland habitat. The barrier beach will also create a 2.6 acre sand beach favorable to shorebirds. The creation of the barrier island would afford stopover habitat for 16 bird species, which is more than double the number of shorebird species that are presently utilizing the project area," says Chris Akios, USACE wildlife biologist.

Wesson Group is currently undertaking the channeling, potholing, and sidecasting portion of the restoration plan. This activity began on January 15, 2016 and is about 65% complete. This portion of the project is expected to be finished by March 15, 2016. Channeling, potholing, and sidecasting activities will add habitat variability and will facilitate the establishment of a diverse wetland community.

“The excavation of the channels and potholes is being guided by state-of-the-art technology, which will provide as-built drawings with great level of detail and accuracy. The unseasonably warm weather has not slowed down progress, and work is right on schedule to be completed in mid-March,” says Sheila Hint, USACE project manager.

Once the channeling and potholing activities are completed, construction of the barrier beach portion of the project will begin in May of 2016, followed by invasive species management, and implementation of a comprehensive planting and seeding plan to be completed by spring of 2017.

 “The Wesson Group is doing an incredible job of interpreting the ecological objectives of our work by building a degree of variability and heterogeneity into the base designs,” said Joshua Unghire, USACE restoration ecologist.  “In addition to helping the features appear more natural, it also maximizes the diversity of habitats we are creating.”

Buffalo District team members were pleased to note that the contractor understands and appreciates the goals and objectives of the project.

“The work to this point by the Wesson Group is going above and beyond our expectations by taking the initiative to create more sinuosity within the channels than initially prescribed, which provides an even more natural appearance to the marsh,” said Akios.

The Braddock Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project is the result of an interagency partnership between the USACE Buffalo District and the USEPA. Project partners that have been key drivers of this project include the Town of Greece, NYSDEC, and the Rochester Embayment Remedial Action Plan Oversight Committee. Partnerships such as these are a great benefit to the project because of the larger pool of technical expertise working towards one objective.

Recreational boating and fishing will also likely see a boost as a result of this project. The breakwater will reduce turbidity in the Bay, thereby improving foraging habitat for salmonids, smallmouth bass, and the northern pike, which is one of New York State’s most important sport fish.

Braddock Bay is one of the largest coastal wetland ecosystems in the state and is part of the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern (AoC). This habitat restoration project may help in delisting this biologically rich and economically important area. The Braddock Bay Ecosystem Restoration project takes a major step toward improving the overall health and resiliency of the Great Lakes’ ecosystem.