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A Look at Crescent Beach and Blind Sodus Bay Coastal Resiliency Projects

June 25, 2021

The Great Lakes cover the largest surface of fresh water in the world, spanning 4,530 miles of coastline, with an overall watershed of over 200,000 square miles. The region has been experiencing extreme precipitation events, changes in growing seasons, and heightened temperatures, which have resulted in flooding, overwash, and erosion along the shoreline. This has impacted the people, ecosystems, and infrastructure of the Great Lakes region.

In reaction to this situation, Governor Cuomo developed the Resiliency & Economic Development Initiative (REDI) to provide funding to communities for coastal resilience and economic development. Wayne County, located in central New York along Lake Ontario, was awarded grant funding through this program for multiple projects. Two of these projects are the Crescent Beach Barrier Bar Project and the Blind Sodus Bay Barrier Bar Project.

B&L worked closely with Anchor QEA as the selected consultant team for these projects. The synergy between various practice areas enhanced our approach to solving two different coastal challenges along Lake Ontario: creating new structures to protect existing shoreline and re-establishing pre-existing shoreline.

Crescent Beach

Crescent Beach is a 1.5 mile long barrier bar located in the Town of Huron and the Town of Sodus, New York on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. The barrier bar is home to approximately 80 seasonal and year-round residents and protects Sodus Bay from wind, wave, and ice forces on Lake Ontario. Sodus Bay provides an aquatic habitat to various ecological communities and is a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) significant natural community. The primary objective of the Crescent Beach REDI Project is to design and construct a natural or nature-based shoreline stabilization system that protects Crescent Beach from Lake Ontario wave action and enhance the overall resiliency of the barrier beach. Design criteria includes:

  • Long Term Protection of Crescent Beach Shoreline due to Wind, Waves, and Ice Forces

  • Protection of Sodus Bay Ecosystem

  • Impacts to Private Property

  • Use of Natural or Nature-Based Features

  • Cost Considerations

  • Maintenance Considerations

Multiple alternatives were evaluated with these criteria, resulting in the selection of a barrier rock reef living shoreline system, which achieves the established objectives and design criteria. The barrier rock reefs were designed referencing precedent projects in the Great Lakes and around the nation with design guidance from United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Sea Grant. Natural and nature-based features were integrated to target specific species within and in proximity to the project site, both aquatic and upland. Coastal modeling was utilized to analyze the geometry and alignment of the developed design. From there, the team interacted with multiple environmental and permitting agencies, including NYSDEC, New York State Office of General Services (NYSOGS), New York State Department of State (NYSDOS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and USACE, to understand the environmental permitting needs of the project and REDI program requirements.

The challenge for this project was to design a collective public system that achieves the REDI goals of the ecosystem and public infrastructure resilience while working with private property owners that had legal navigational rights offshore of their properties to understand benefits beyond individual navigational zones. Public input was received through an ESRI Storymap, a Virtual Public Meeting, and ongoing correspondence with residents: Crescent Beach REDI Storymap.

Incorporating public input, the design team developed a living shoreline system that distributed protection and ecosystem enhancements throughout the project site, considered community benefits, and upheld the REDI objectives.

It is anticipated that these projects will provide the following benefits along the entirety of Crescent Beach to the surrounding community:

  • Conservation and enhancement of local ecosystems, including those unique to each site and bay;

  • Support for local tourism and recreational economy;

  • Improvements for both water-based and land-based recreational activities; and

  • Visual and functional quality in the selection of materials and appearance.

Blind Sodus Bay

The Blind Sodus Bay REDI Project has a similar process and similar goals to the Crescent Beach REDI Project, but applied to a different context. Blind Sodus Bay Barrier Bar is located to the east of Crescent Beach along Lake Ontario, spanning a total distance of 0.6 miles. The project objective is the re-establishment of a historic publicly owned shoreline which once separated and protected Blind Sodus Bay from Lake Ontario wind, wave, and ice forces. This includes restoring a once isolated ecosystem, providing more robust natural and nature-based features that are more species focused, re-establishing a pre-existing gravel/cobble beach and historical navigation channel, and enhancing the barrier bar that still exists. Coastal modeling is being used to evaluate the performance of the proposed shoreline, while additional modeling is being utilized for geomorphology. This deeper depth of analysis will predict the long-term longevity of the proposed design.

The B&L and Anchor QEA team presented these resiliency projects at the 2021 Great Lakes Climate Action Seminar, hosted by the New York University American Society of Landscape Architects, and will be presenting the projects next at the 2021 The American Shore and Beach Preservation Association National Coastal Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Sustainable Planning & Design

This article is from members of the Sustainable Planning & Design Practice Area.

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