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On Air: NY Sea Grant Offers Native Plants for Great Lakes Shoreline Guide
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 11, 2021 - New York Sea Grant (NYSG) is offering its free Native Plants for Great Lakes Shorelines guide.

As highlighted by NYSG Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy Widrig in a segment on Finger Lakes Radio, the guide offers nature-based alternatives and improvements to concrete, rebar and rocks.

The clip above: The native plants guide is available online at the NY Sea Grant website or you can call call 315-312-3042 to request a print copy.


The clip above: While it’s ironic the guide is being released as Lake Ontario’s water level is lower than it’s been in years, the timing couldn’t be better.

You can also listen to Widrig's full conversation with Steve Penstone on Finger Lakes Radio ...

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: [00:00:02] Good morning. It is 8:16 on this Friday morning. Not a bad morning at all. Could be a little wet this weekend, but we'll take it. And we are joined on Zoom by Roy Widrig, who is the Great Lakes Processes and Hazards specialist for New York, Sea Grant. And welcome back to the show. It's been, I guess, almost well close to a year and a half since you were last with us. And as you were just saying before we [00:00:30] came on, Roy, you didn't have a whole lot to do during the the 15 months or so of the pandemic.

Speaker2: [00:00:37] Well, Steve, it's great to be back and yeah, we we really spent the last year planning a lot of programming for this year and years in the future

Speaker1: [00:00:48] And in your your position, one of the things you did come up with was the latest free guide on native plants for the Great Lakes [00:01:00] shoreline. And give us an, you know, an indication of why it's so important to be concerned about the native plants.

Speaker2: [00:01:11] Well, we see a lot of people want to have these greener shorelines, but they really don't know where to start. So we wanted to build up this guide so that people knew the options of how to kind of reshape the shoreline the responsible way to make sure that they could maintain the coastal processes and kind of reestablish [00:01:30] a lot of these shoreline environments and ecosystems that had been pretty much wiped out by a lot of shoreline development on the Great Lakes and throughout the Finger Lakes, the river valleys. We kind of lost our way a little bit and this is a way we're hoping to get people back on track.

Speaker1: [00:01:50] And it's environmentally friendly way, I guess is a good way maybe of putting it because it offers nature based alternatives instead [00:02:00] of concrete seawalls or steel, you know, structures in that to protect the communities and the shorelines as a whole.

Speaker2: [00:02:10] Yeah, we often think of the natural ecosystems in terms of connectivity and a lot of these concrete walls and, you know, roads, buildings, all those, they kind of break that up so that continuity of the environment just hasn't been there as much. So when [00:02:30] using the native plants, you can couple that with, you know, a more powerful shoreline erosion type stuff like riprap, things like that. But you can green it up a little bit and that helps out the ecosystem a little bit.

Speaker1: [00:02:43] And it looks a whole lot nicer, too, in most cases.

Speaker2: [00:02:47] Much better. Yes.

Speaker1: [00:02:49] And I mean, there's more than just a handful of plants that can be planted. Are the ones that are specific to different types of locations and whether it's a sandy [00:03:00] area or a rocky area.

Speaker2: [00:03:03] Very much so. I've noticed through my travels in the Great Lakes and the Finger Lakes that these shorelines are not the same throughout. So I spent a lot of time up in Jefferson County where there's shallower bedrock. I see things like red cedar. They do really well up there. They're not going to do so well in, say, the Lake Erie shoreline because. Well, they might. But, you know, the environment is just not the same. And. you know, you're not going to be [00:03:30] planting dune grasses on bedrock or large trees on top of bluffs. We kind of want to avoid that. They get a little bit too heavy. So we kind of decided to design the plant guide so that you would get the full array of plants. You get a nice look at them. I took a lot of pictures for this guide and had to borrow from a lot of other professionals in the field. But we also wanted to put ideal growing conditions in shoreline zones in there so people [00:04:00] would get a better idea of the right plants for their specific situation.

Speaker1: [00:04:05] And I find it kind of ironic that you've come up with a guide and it's being released at the same time that we're hearing that the water level in Lake Ontario is lower than it's been in a number of years, especially after the the two years of severe flooding.

Speaker2: [00:04:26] Mm hmm. And actually, I think the timing is really, really great for this [00:04:30] because you don't want to do the planting when the lake levels are high. You want to make sure that every time you do a planting event or to really make a shoreline more robust with plants, you want to do that above the mean high water level so that it's not going to be wiped out in the first storm. But with the lake level lower, it gives you a little bit more time to establish those plants in case that water level comes back up again. So it's really the perfect time [00:05:00] to plant.

Speaker1: [00:05:01] And, you know, as you mentioned, there are a lot of different species for different locations. Are there ideas other than planting that will help with the erosion issue?

Speaker2: [00:05:15] Yeah, in most cases, the planting is just not going to be enough by itself. There's a lot of different nature based features and techniques that you can use, coir logs, like coconut or other kind of fiber [00:05:30] logs that are kind of woven together. You place those on the shoreline and they stabilize the shoreline almost like a hard wall would, only it allows plants to root within it or allow grass seeds to grow. You can get those, you know, embedded inside them. And there's a lot of other things like edging where you just protect a little bit of the shoreline with something like a coir log or there's also coir mats which kind of lay out on [00:06:00] top of the land surface, and you use those for replanting, revegetation as well. So we do want to make sure that people are looking at a bunch of different options instead of just, you know, let's take a plant here, because a lot of times that might not be enough.

Speaker1: [00:06:15] And when, you know, when shoreline residents or business owners are considering, you know, planting, obviously they have to take into account. And I'm sure you and Sea Grant will offer advice [00:06:30] on, you know, what plants are the best to survive the wonderful winters along the shore.

Speaker2: [00:06:37] Mm hmm. Yeah, the shoreline ice is always a concern. And when people come to us, that's that's one of the main things that we think about, is that, all right, this might be a really great plant for the summer. It's going to have nice blossoms. It's going to stabilize the shoreline. But it's like, what if that ice comes up in in, you know, late March when the ice breaks up [00:07:00] and is pushed up on shore by the winds? Is it going to be able to handle that or is it going to be able to handle that? But will it be helped out if you add say something like cottonwood trees or willow trees as well, that might be able to protect the other plants that you install as well. So that's that's kind of one of things we wanted to get out of this is that you get the guide in your hand, you come back to us and say, this is my shoreline situation, what's going to work best? And that's where we're going to come in and [00:07:30] try to work with people to make sure they make the right decision.

Speaker1: [00:07:33] And obviously, there is a lot of information for shoreline residents and business owners to consider. So if if they want to do some planning or whatever it is to improve their, you know, their problems or get rid of their problems, how do they get in touch with Sea Grant.

Speaker2: [00:07:51] Our office number at SUNY Oswego is (315) 312-3042. Those calls will go right to [00:08:00] us. But also we have a Great Lakes Sea Grant Web page as well that, you know, nyseagrant.org/glcoastal, that will take you to my kind of resource page where the shoreline erosion management documents, the shoreline plant documents and all of our recorded workshops and such.

Speaker1: [00:08:24] And you can download a copy of the guide as well from the New York Sea Grant website.

Speaker2: [00:08:30] Yes, [00:08:30] you can. You can also request print copies from us as well.

Speaker1: [00:08:34] All right, Roy, congratulations on being a published author. And hopefully it'll help a lot of people out not only this summer, but through the winter and into the years ahead.

Speaker2: [00:08:47] Well, thank you, Steve. Hopefully we get this out as soon as possible.

Speaker1: [00:08:50] All right. Good to talk to you. Roy Widrig, the Great Lakes processes and hazards specialist for New York Sea Grant has been our guest [00:09:00] and it is 8:25 on the Finger Lakes Morning News.

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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