Presque Isle Spring Beach Walk Shows Significant Erosion

Published April 1, 2016
Presque Isle partnership inspect shoreline conditions during the annual Presque Isle Beach Walk, March 30, 2016

Presque Isle partnership inspect shoreline conditions during the annual Presque Isle Beach Walk, March 30, 2016

It was a balmy 60 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny day, March 30, for the annual spring beach walk at Presque Isle State Park, Erie PA.

Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Buffalo District, the Presque Isle Advisory Committee, the Park Operations Manager, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) gathered to walk the entire length of Presque Isle’s western beach to assess the condition of the beach ahead of the summer swimming season.

The annual spring beach walk is conducted to determine the extent of erosion that has occurred since last winter’s beach walk. This year, due to the lack of protective ice cover, the beach was exposed to battering wave action throughout the winter. As a result, significant erosion has occurred along the length of Presque Isle.

Presque Isle, a National Natural Landmark, is a 3,000 acre sandy peninsula that arches gracefully into Lake Erie and serves as a natural breakwater that forms and protects Erie Harbor, PA. This unique natural land feature also contains seven unique habitats, provides valuable stopover habitat for migrating birds, and offers valuable nesting habitat for the Federally Endangered Piping Plover.

The Buffalo District is part of the partnership that monitors erosion of the peninsula and aims at inducing the continued growth of Gull Point, which contains the majority of the critical habitat for endangered species. This began with the Presque Isle Shoreline Erosion Control Project, initiated in the 1990s, with the construction of 55 offshore breakwaters along the western shore and 560,000 tons of sand fill.

“Each year, approximately 38,000 cubic yards of sand is needed to offset the impacts of erosion,” says Coastal Engineer Michael Mohr.

The beach is annually nourished with stockpiled sand or sand dredged from an offshore source. The project is cost-shared 50-50 with the non-federal sponsor. This year however, federal funds were not included in the annual appropriations budget.

Geologist Weston Cross, Coastal Engineer Michael Mohr, and Project Manager Michael Asquith assessed various features of the beach and took detailed notes as they inspected the nearly six miles of shoreline. Cross and Mohr were particularly interested in documenting the location and size of erosional features along the shoreline.

“There is erosion into the shoreline which causes a scarp, a steep vertical cut in the bank. This is nothing out of the ordinary, but there certainly are a few more this year as compared to years past,” said Cross.

The USACE will consolidate the measurements and calculations taken from this year’s beach walk and will provide a detailed technical report to the project partners. Park managers will use this data to develop plans to nourish the beaches with as little impact to visitors and residents as possible.