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On Air: New York Sea Grant Seeks to Revitalize Lake Erie Waterfront
Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Erosion - News


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

Oswego, NY, June 15, 2021 - The New York Sea Grant (NYSG) program is reaching out to local property owners to revitalize their waterfront areas along Lake Erie. 

The shoreline has been hit by higher lake levels and a number of storms in recent years. 

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

Widrig says erosion has been a problem in recent years...

The clip above: NYSG's Roy Widrig says that erosion continues to be a problem.

The clip above: NYSG's Roy Widrig says he began making virtual site visits to assist residents along the lakeshore.

Click here for more information about the New York Sea Grant's online Virtual Site Visit portal.

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

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 WDOE news director Dave Rowley. Welcome to VIEWPOINT. On our live line this morning we have the New York Sea Grant Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy Widrig with us on the live line. And Roy, welcome to the program. And you're here to talk a little bit about a free guide from New York Sea Grant on native plants [00:00:30] for Great Lakes shorelines.

Speaker2: [00:00:34] Yes I am. Thanks for having me, Dave.

Speaker1: [00:00:36] Well, Roy, the right plan for the right place and the right purpose. Tell us what your Native Plants for Great Lakes Shorelines Guide is all about.

Speaker2: [00:00:49] Well, we had a lot of inquiries from shoreline residents, especially on Lake Erie, southern Erie County, northern Chautauqua County, especially in the [00:01:00] Fredonia area. They really wanted to learn more about native plants and what they could do to help clean up their shorelines after a lot of the erosion that we saw in 2019, 2020.

Speaker1: [00:01:11] Yeah, we've really been hit.

Speaker2: [00:01:15] Yeah, the high water in recent years really took a toll on a lot of aging shoreline structures. You know, those things don't last forever. And we want to kind of help people move towards more sustainable options. And working native plants [00:01:30] into your shoreline management can really help improve longevity and really beautify your shorelines.

Speaker1: [00:01:37] So, Roy, what type of plants are profiled in this guide?

Speaker2: [00:01:44] Well, we tried to provide as many as possible in as many different growing situations and height and sizes and textures as possible. So we get as small as, you know, a little ground covers and veins that might cover a little [00:02:00] small garden areas or little disturbed areas of soil all the way up to some pretty significantly large trees like black willow and sycamore and White Oak.

Speaker1: [00:02:11] So can you give us maybe an example of how you can match the plant to the purpose?

Speaker2: [00:02:19] Sure. We also have another resource available to shoreline property owners called Virtual Site Visits, which you can see on our website, nyseagrant.org/glcoastal. And folks [00:02:30] can submit photos of their shoreline. So what I'll do is I'll look at those photos and look at where they are on a map and try to get a good idea of the wave environment that they face and how much wave energy they're actually going to get on their shoreline. Some plants aren't going to be strong enough to sustain a certain wave energy. So we'll look at that and look at the soils in the area to make sure that what we're recommending is suitable for that area, make sure that bedrock isn't too shallow. See if large trees will grow. And we'll [00:03:00] give a whole suite of recommendations of what plants would work best for each shoreline.

Speaker1: [00:03:06] Now, there are some types of trees, species that there could really help stabilize a beach.

Speaker2: [00:03:17] Now there's quite a few. Sometimes it takes a while for trees to establish on shoreline, but there are some very quickly growing trees that are really great in the Great Lakes. That includes the eastern cottonwood, black [00:03:30] willows. There's smaller shrub willows that will grow really quickly, but not not grow much more than, you know, 10 to 15 feet. And they can be trimmed. So they don't block a view. And it's New York State, so Maples are always a good option as well.

Speaker1: [00:03:44] Now, are there are some non-plan to activities that can be used to help protect the shoreline.

Speaker2: [00:03:55] Sure. In a lot of cases, just plants are not going to be quite enough, especially on [00:04:00] Lake Erie. There's a lot of wave energy coming off that. There's a lot of bedrock. It's hard for plants to establish a lot of times. So we like to work with nature based on hybrid methods. That could be, you know, taking what you already have, whether it be rock riprap and just kind of adding plants to that. Or in the case of vertical walls like Quartz and cement walls, you can actually have transition zones where you work with the upland area instead of right on the shoreline, and that will help, you know, [00:04:30] reduce the runoff that goes to the lake and reduce the erosion on the lakeside. Because what we see in Lake Erie a lot of times is erosion behind brick walls, behind revetments. And a lot of the plants in our guide can help prevent that.

Speaker1: [00:04:44] Yeah, so a lot of different techniques that can be followed. Some really good tips. You know, when we're talking about trees and also other types of plants, [00:05:00] what are the benefits of planting native species?

Speaker2: [00:05:06] The native species are adapted to growing in the Great Lakes. You know, I don't have to convince any of your listeners that it is a difficult place to live at times with the weather that we receive. So these plants are hardy. They know how to grow here, I guess is a good way to say it. But also they're more conducive to the natural ecosystems. So they might be fed on [00:05:30] by other native animals, insects, mammals, but they're not going to be mowed down to the point where they're going to die immediately. So they work kind of more in balance with nature. They're just a lot more suitable than, you know, going to the nursery center and buying a $75 exotic plant from, you know, Western Asia or something that's just going to not be able to take our winters, [00:06:00] not be able to take shoreline ice and possibly get browsed down by deer and rabbits.

Speaker1: [00:06:04] Yeah. So, you know, matching it up to the environment certainly is very important. So that works out really well. I want to get into a little bit about this website, this virtual site visit portal?

Speaker2: [00:06:24] Yes, so at nyseagrant.org/glcoastal there will be a link to this virtual [00:06:30] site visit is what we're calling it. You know, last year we weren't able to go out and meet people face to face. So we decided to set up this online forum and it ended up being really successful, especially in western New York. And it's just a way for the residents to describe the erosion issues they've had in the past, post some pictures so that I can see them and kind of evaluate what's going on, but also place their property on a map so they I can see where it sits. And when they do that, it's  [00:07:00]starts a conversation with me. I can either send them resources like the Plant Guide or our Erosion Management Guide, or we can set up in-person visits and start walking through the process of solving their coastline erosion issues.

Speaker1: [00:07:15] Is there a concern that we're going to see more of the shore erosion taking place over time? I mean, look at the extremes along the Lake Ontario shore in [00:07:30] recent years. And, of course, we've seen some pretty big storms on Lake Erie. Is there a concern with climate change? Are we going to see more of this?

Speaker2: [00:07:41] There's definitely concern. Yeah, and it has a lot to do with the lake levels, which, you know, that's out of our hands. That's climatic events, heavy rainfall and heavy wind event, especially on Lake Erie with the seiche events that to me seem like they're a little bit more common than they used to be. Those are the events [00:08:00] where we see most shoreline erosion. So this is something that we do have to start thinking about as being more frequent and potentially more severe. But I think we're in a good place right now. Lake levels are going down a little bit, but we were in a mode right now where we can really start being proactive about this. And that's part of Sea Grant is here to do, to help local property owners be proactive about what they're doing and make their own properties and businesses more resilient in the future if these [00:08:30] things do get more intense.

Speaker1: [00:08:32] Yeah. So, Roy, really, people should really think about getting started this summer.

Speaker2: [00:08:41] Yeah, and we've had a lot of inquiries, especially about this time last year. It looked like folks on Lake Erie were really starting to move towards that. And that hasn't stopped. So, there's a lot of momentum right now towards getting started with this. And it's really been great to see how committed the communities on [00:09:00] Lake Erie have been towards being more resilient.

Speaker1: [00:09:03] So any other tips that you can share with our listeners regarding this issue with shoreline erosion?

Speaker2: [00:09:13] Well, what we see a lot that I don't think gets expressed enough is that you kind of have to work with your neighbors and your community a little bit more. Over the past, you know, 40, 50 years, people have been put in walls and they don't necessarily match up well with what the neighbors [00:09:30] do. Maybe they're farther out into the lake and that reflects the wave energy to neighboring properties. So you really want to think about the whole shoreline and not just your specific property. You know, you want to protect your assets, but you also have to think about the system a little bit more because there are a lot of intricacies that happen on the shoreline, especially wave refraction and reflection that are really important for just not just your own, but for the neighboring properties as well. A very complex system. [00:10:00]

Speaker1: [00:10:00] Yeah, I know. I know some of these storms, as you mentioned, 2019, the lake wall seawalls, they call it, along Lakefront Boulevard in the city of Dunkirk, one of the areas that was just battered by a severe wind storm event that hit during Halloween evening. So those are the types of things we need to be very concerned about. [00:10:30]

Speaker2: [00:10:31] Yes, that Halloween storm was really probably, since I started working with Sea Grant, the most influential on mobilizing people towards action. That storm was very destructive, those winds that lasted a long time. There's a lot of damage on the shoreline. I guess if you want to find a silver lining with that, it connected us with a lot of people on the shoreline. And now we're kind of more embedded in those communities. And we're we're here [00:11:00] to help them be more resilient.

Speaker1: [00:11:02] So, Roy, in starting to sum up this morning's VIEWPOINT interview again, how can people get more information? Talk once again about the Native Plans for Great Lakes Shoreline Guide.

Speaker2: [00:11:18] Well, they can contact our office. We are located at SUNY Oswego. (315) 312-3042. You can also visit our website, which is nyseagrant.org/glcoastal. [00:11:30] All of our resources are located there. And if you can't find them, you can always contact me by calling our office. And my contact information is also available on the guide on the website. So I'm I am here to help people deal with the shoreline erosion and flooding issues. So that would be what I would say right now is just just contact us. We're always available.

Speaker1: [00:11:55] And again, that portal is really intriguing [00:12:00] for people that really would like to get more information about their own property.

Speaker2: [00:12:08] Yes, that's one of the benefits we have of the portal. And it's usually it's an exchange of information. I get information from the people that are experiencing the erosion and I am able to provide them with a lot of different resources.

Speaker1: [00:12:21] And you can get on the same website, right?

Speaker2: [00:12:25] Yes, it should all be there under publications.

Speaker1: [00:12:28] Well, Roy, thanks for joining [00:12:30] us this morning on VIEWPOINT. I really appreciate and will share this information with our listeners.

Speaker2: [00:12:38] Oh, thanks for having me. Talk to you again soon.

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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