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On Air: NY Grant Can Assist Lake Erie Property Owners
Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Erosion - News


Roy Widrig, Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist, E: rlw294@cornell.edu, P: 315-312-3042

Filed by Dave Rowley, WDOE News Director

Oswego, NY, May 9, 2023 - While the winter season was a mild one, many Lake Erie property owners are still dealing with damage caused by high wind events and the lake's wave action. 
NY Sea Grant's Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy Widrig says the organization can provide assistance when it comes to developing a plan for a shoreline project. He says the past winter season caused considerable damage along the Lake Erie shore...

Property owners dealing with weather events: "We didn't have a whole lot of shoreline ice because it was such a warm winter. But there were some significant wave events, safety events on Lake Erie, so that did a lot of damage to the shoreline in certain places. A lot of high waves. We saw a lot of destruction of shoreline walls and riprap," says Widrig

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Widrig, who was a call-in guest on Monday's Viewpoint program on WDOE, said there are some measures property owners can take to mitigate the damage...

Need to plan for future: "If you are building on the shoreline, build farther away from the shoreline if you can. Make sure all of your features are sited a little bit higher than they would be in the past just because we do see some shoreline flooding events," says Widrig

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clicking here (mp3). It may take a few minutes to download, so please be patient.

NY Sea Grant also has a guide to native plants that can help absorb and filter stormwater and stabilize sand dunes.

Widrig spoke with News Director Dave Rowley on WDOE 1040 AM / 94.9 FM's "Viewpoint" program, which is broadcast in the greater Syracuse and Oswego regions.

Viewpoint airs on WDOE Monday through Friday at 8:45am. Dave Rowley has been handling the hosting duties for more than 20 years, interviewing local, county and state elected officials. Community groups are also featured on the 15-minute live interview show. Listeners can email their questions to Dave and he will include them in the interviews. We also take suggestions for possible guests. Get to know the issues in your community.

You can also listen to the entire "Viewpoint" program featuring Roy Widrig of New York Sea Grant in the clip below ...

If you don't see the player above, it's because you're using a non-Flash device (eg, iPhone or iPad). You can download the mp3 file by clicking here (mp3). It may take a few minutes to download, so please be patient.

Full Transcript: 

Speaker1: [00:00:00] Time now for Viewpoint. Here's news director Dave Riley. And good morning I'm viewpoint this morning we have New York Sea Grant coastal processes and hazards specialists Roy Widrig with us. And Roy, welcome to the program. And we'll be talking about shoreline property owners and some of the erosion problems they face. Welcome to the program.

Speaker2: [00:00:29] Hi. Thank you [00:00:30] for having me, Dave. Well, good to be back.

Speaker1: [00:00:32] Well, Roy, first off, we've gone through winter finally. It looks like real spring weather is with us. How have the Great Lakes shoreline, how did they weather this winter?

Speaker2: [00:00:50] Well, it's kind of an interesting case this winter because we didn't have a whole lot of shoreline ice because it was such a warm winter. But there were some significant [00:01:00] wave events, stage events on Lake Erie. So that did a lot of damage to the shoreline in certain places, a lot of high waves. We saw a lot of destruction of shoreline walls and riprap and protected features like that, a lot of overwashing of those features. But also we saw a lot of freeze thaw erosion as well. So that's when, you know, the soil on top of the slope will freeze, but then warm up during the day and kind of slide down into the lake a little bit. So there's quite a few different ways in [00:01:30] which we did see some erosion this winter.

Speaker1: [00:01:32] So we really are seeing these weather events. They seem to be popping up almost every year, it seems.

Speaker2: [00:01:42] Yeah. You know, when I started this job almost ten years ago, we didn't see these events or the big wave events nearly as much as we do have in the last couple of years. And with the big lake effect storms on Christmas, we also saw a lot of wave [00:02:00] events with that, too. So they're actually you know, they're happening at weird times a little bit earlier than we're used to and also a little later than we're used to. So it looks like that winter storm season is a little bit longer lately.

Speaker1: [00:02:12] Now, what kind of measures can property owners take to mitigate some of the damage from these high wind events?

Speaker2: [00:02:22] Well, the first thing they can do is just be a little bit more resilient. And that is, you know, if you are building on the shoreline, building farther [00:02:30] away from the shoreline, if you can make sure all of your features are sited a little bit higher than they would be in the past, just because we do see some shoreline flooding events. But also, you know, there's going to continue to be erosion. So you want to make sure that you've got a few decades at least, to outrun the shoreline erosion. But for the most part, on Lake Erie, we see a lot of cement poured cement walls, rock riprap walls and, you know, some other ways that [00:03:00] a little bit more innovative or a little bit more naturally resilient happening as well. And we can, you know, New York cigarettes available to help shoreline property owners through this process if they are considering it, you know, we can come out and take a look at shorelines and help them determine what might be the best approach for protecting shorelines.

Speaker1: [00:03:22] So if there are property owners that are listening to this broadcast and know Van Buren Bay seems to be one [00:03:30] of the worst hit areas, you know, along Lake Erie in recent years, how can they get a hold of you? How can they find out more about what New York Sea Grant offers?

Speaker2: [00:03:45] So our website is a good spot to start. It is NYC grant.org. We do have offices in Buffalo and I myself am located in the office at SUNY Oswego. There's a phone number that's 305 3123042. [00:04:00] So folks can call that number and get in touch with us and we'll set something up. But that's the easiest way to do so.

Speaker1: [00:04:07] Now, how often do shoreline projects need local or other permissions?

Speaker2: [00:04:15] Well, it depends on which town you live in. There is the coastal erosion hazard areas. So those are the and that's all along the shoreline. And depending on what town you live in, they either need local permission to do shoreline [00:04:30] projects or state permission to do projects. And that varies from town to town along the shoreline.

Speaker1: [00:04:37] And you guys can actually assist in identifying what needs to happen.

Speaker2: [00:04:44] Yes, we can. Usually there are some cases where we might want to bring in more specific experts on certain things. But for the most part, we've seen what has worked on the shoreline, what the state is more. Friendly [00:05:00] to permitting for and, you know, just kind of helping guide through that process. You know what we've seen that smart what we've seen that's much less smart.

Speaker1: [00:05:10] Now, you have recently published A Guide to Erosion and Recession of New York's Coastal Bluffs and tell us what readers might learn from this guide.

Speaker2: [00:05:23] Yeah, So that was based on some research out of Stony Brook University that was funded by New York Sea Grant on [00:05:30] the different mechanisms of erosion for different shoreline types, specifically bluffs in the New York's Great Lakes region. So on Lake Erie especially, there's often shaly bedrock cliffs, which tend to erode a little bit quicker than other bedrock cliffs. But on top of that is what we're really concerned with, and that's that glacial sediments, the sand and gravel and clay that sits on top of it. That tends to erode much more quickly. So [00:06:00] we detail the processes behind that, why it happens when it happens, where it happens, but also a little bit of guidance on how to monitor that and to get an erosion rate for your property, how to map out your property so that you can help better understand erosion in certain areas, but also a little bit of guidance on what to do if the erosion becomes a little bit too problematic.

Speaker1: [00:06:24] And is this a good time of the year to be looking at this?

Speaker2: [00:06:29] Yeah, [00:06:30] I think all every day is a good time to look at shoreline erosion because you never know. A lot of it's based on storm events. So it's always good to look before and after storm events, but also get a baseline of just how the shoreline changes throughout the year.

Speaker1: [00:06:48] Now, because Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, is is that also kind of a factor when it comes to erosion?

Speaker2: [00:06:59] Very much [00:07:00] so, because that near shore environment is much more shallow. It causes the waves to break a lot more vigorously on the shoreline in some cases, and they tend to build up quite a bit on the Lake Erie shoreline. And we tend to see some pretty large waves out there as a result.

Speaker1: [00:07:17] Now, you've also written a guide Working with Nature, and it's a guide to native plants for New York's Great Lakes shoreline. Tell [00:07:30] us a little bit about the role that plants can play.

Speaker2: [00:07:35] Well, what we'd like to do is use that guide when we do site visits and go out. And one of the easiest things you can do is just look around at what is growing and succeeding in that area and, you know, growing vigorously and try to use those plants to help restore the natural environment of the shoreline, because in many cases, it's going to be very good for wildlife. It's going to be very scenic. Sometimes [00:08:00] these native plants just look very nice. But also the roots that they put down are more adapted to growing in these areas. So they tend to be much more resistant to erosion when you use the native plants rather than fruit trees from Asia or ground covers that don't necessarily grow here.

Speaker1: [00:08:21] And I was going to ask you what what are some common mistakes that that you see people doing?

Speaker2: [00:08:29] Well, sometimes it is just [00:08:30] putting too large of a plant, too close to the shoreline. I've seen so many trees go into the into the lakes in the past couple of years. It gets to a certain point where the banks really can't hold on to large trees anymore. And that will cause a little bit more erosion when they fall. A lot of times they're just planting in the wrong time of year once you get past May and into June. Plants really don't want to be transplanted at that point. So what you want to do is get them in the ground [00:09:00] as soon as it thaws rather than, you know, planting in the middle of the summer when the nursery stock is a little bit more discounted. Or as the once the leaves go off the tree in the fall, that's a really good time to do it as well. But mostly just timing.

Speaker1: [00:09:16] Yeah. So really right now is almost ideal.

Speaker2: [00:09:21] Yeah, the usually the very end of March up through May. That's when you want to be planning.

Speaker1: [00:09:27] Okay. Now New [00:09:30] York Sea Grant has publications on bioengineering and installing breakwalls and other structures. You know, how can people access these guides?

Speaker2: [00:09:44] Yeah, they're all located on our website, which again is NYC grant.org. And to specifically get Great Lakes resources for this topic would be NYC grant.org/gl coastal.

Speaker1: [00:09:59] And as we start [00:10:00] to wrap up today's interview, what anything else you'd like to share with our listeners?

Speaker2: [00:10:07] You know, one thing I'd just like to see is just be more aware of your environment and what kind of changes to the shoreline are going on in your area. So that could be just, you know, taking the boat out on the weekend and looking and seeing what's happening everywhere else. But also in our guide, which is a free guide, there's ways to map your property and just monitor your erosion rates over time. And that helps give people [00:10:30] a bigger a much better understanding of their particular little place on the earth.

Speaker1: [00:10:36] And again, we seem to be seeing these events more frequently.

Speaker2: [00:10:42] Yes, we do, mostly in the winter, but we do have some pretty high wind events in the summer lately, especially with, you know, squalls coming through that often have pressure waves with them that might cause shoreline. Might cause waves [00:11:00] on the shoreline. And also just high wind events from thunderstorms. Okay.

Speaker1: [00:11:05] So, Roy, people need to get working now, right?

Speaker2: [00:11:10] All times are good to be thinking about this. But right now it's a good time as well.

Speaker1: [00:11:14] Anything else as far as how can people get more information Once again, from New York Sea Grant?

Speaker2: [00:11:23] You know, depending on the information that you're seeking, we're usually the ones to help find that information, even if it's not produced [00:11:30] by us or housed by us. Usually we know who to talk to or where to go for any information that Shoreline residents are looking for.

Speaker1: [00:11:38] Well, why? Thanks for joining us on viewpoint. We appreciate your information, your input, and we'll do it again soon.

Speaker2: [00:11:47] All right. Thanks for having me.

More Info: New York Sea Grant

New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 34 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

Since 1971, NYSG has represented a statewide network of integrated research, education and extension services promoting coastal community economic vitality, environmental sustainability and citizen awareness and understanding about the State’s marine and Great Lakes resources.

Through NYSG’s efforts, the combined talents of university scientists and extension specialists help develop and transfer science-based information to many coastal user groups—businesses and industries, federal, state and local government decision-makers and agency managers, educators, the media and the interested public.

The program maintains Great Lakes offices at Cornell University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Oswego and the Wayne County Cooperative Extension office in Newark. In the State's marine waters, NYSG has offices at Stony Brook University in Long Island, Brooklyn College and Cornell Cooperative Extension in NYC and Kingston in the Hudson Valley.

For updates on Sea Grant activities: www.nyseagrant.org has RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube links. NYSG offers a free e-list sign up via www.nyseagrant.org/nycoastlines for its flagship publication, NY Coastlines/Currents, which is published quarterly.

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