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On Air: NYSG Offers Virtual Site Visits to Great Lakes Shoreline Owners for Erosion Management Help
Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Erosion - News

Contact: 

Roy Widrig, New York Sea Grant Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist, E: rlw294@cornell.edu, P: 315-312-3042

Oswego, NY, May 13, 2020 - New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy Widrig talks on Finger Lakes Radio about how local waterfront property owners in need of erosion management expertise can request a virtual site visit.

Widrig, the author of Erosion Management for New York’s Great Lakes Shoreline Guide (pdf), has held popular erosion management workshops for Lake Ontario property owners and visited properties to help landowners evaluate options to achieve better drainage, bluff stabilization, and use of nature-based features or traditional structures for erosion management.

Check out the new virtual shoreline visit website of New York Sea Grant’s Great Lakes program at www.nyseagrant.org/glcoastalvirtualsitevisit.

And listen to Widrig's full conversation on Finger Lakes Radio ...



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Established in 2000, the Finger Lakes Radio Group serves listeners and advertisers in the central Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Since then, the group has grown to a seven station cluster with studios and offices in Geneva, Auburn, Penn Yan and Canandaigua. Two of those stations (WGVA and WAUB) comprise Finger Lakes News Radio, a CBS Radio News affiliate offering breaking news in the region 24 hours a day.

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Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Good morning. It is 816 on this gorgeous Wednesday morning, a little frosty, but it's going to warm up and we may actually have a spring coming up. And we have. But, Tom, we really haven't talked about it for a little bit, maybe a week or two about the spring flooding along the Lake Ontario shoreline. And here to talk about it is the coastal processes and hazards specialists with New York Sea Grant Roy Widrig. Roy, good morning and thank you for joining us this morning.

[00:00:35] Good morning, Steve. Happy to be here.

[00:00:37] And, you know, we were just talking before coming on the air. And New York Sea Grant has a new online resource for property owners to deal with erosion and flooding issues. And, you know, I said hopefully they don't have to use it. And your reply was they already have, unfortunately.

[00:00:57] Unfortunately, yes. You even know something. You know, we enjoy working with the community. We rolled out this virtual site, that platform about two weeks ago, and we started getting hits out of it to meet immediately. We're getting at least one a day. And the way it works is that the shoreline residents will put their address. Then they'll let their parcel on the map and explain what erosion issues they have and what concerns they have. They have the opportunity to post some photos to help me along the way. And then I consult with them further.

[00:01:31] And obviously, the technology and the and the online access is going to be, you know, a great tool. And is it just one of many tools in the tool box for Sea Grant?

[00:01:48] It is. You know, I I've been doing these site visits in person for about three years. Obviously, we can't do that right now. So, we thought let's, you know, see how many more people we can reach. They don't necessarily need me to come out to their properties in Niagara or St. Lawrence County. But. Yes. It's one of many tools that we're rolling out. We often have a few lake level viewers so people can view based on certain lake levels where the water is going to be on their property. And we're just going to keep doing it, you know, helping people live on the shoreline as much as we can.

[00:02:26] And I know we don't want to get into the politics of it, but the International Joint Commission has been touting the fact that they have been running the outflows out of the lake at record levels right into the spring. And yet there's still the concern that the flooding is happening and is going to continue happening because of the inflows from, you know, the rest of the Great Lakes. And the issue just does not seem to want to go away year in and year out.

[00:02:59] Yeah. Unfortunately, we're just in a high stage of a lake and we're seeing it all the way up from Lake Superior to Lake Michigan here on Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. All of them are above average right now. Some of them are going to break records this year. It looks like Michigan and Lake Erie will be, you know, really hurt in their previous record. And right now for Lake Ontario, we're doing better lake level wise than we were at this time in 2019. However, that is we're really at the mercy of the rainfall that is going to come. So we're due for what could be a cool but somewhat dry May. As we've noticed, that coolness has definitely been here. We're doing OK precipitation wise. But that doesn't mean that, you know, the weather could change and we might actually have a wet summer. But right now, we're looking pretty good.

[00:03:54] Yeah. And of course, it's also a byproduct of the situation on the St. Lawrence River as well. And the reports I've been seeing from organizations in Canada is that the Ottawa River, which flows into the St. Lawrence up near, you know, before you get to Montreal, has peaked. And as a result, the St. Lawrence River is not as high, I guess, as it's been in the past as well, which certainly makes it maybe a little easier to get the water out of Lake Ontario.

[00:04:27] The mild winter definitely helped. And Ontario felt that mild winter as well. So it is a little bit easier. They were able to maintain quite high outflows this year. But now it's also shipping season. So they have to consider that as well. You can't let so much out that the ships can't control themselves going through the river. There's  really a delicate balance in trying to find that perfect situation. But right now, we're still hearing a lot of reports of erosion, high water, but we're hoping it will get a little bit better than it was in 2019.

[00:05:04] Yes, certainly can't get a whole lot worse for sure. And 2017 as well. I know my cousin lives on the shore of Georgian Bay. And he was we were Facebook messaging on the weekend. And then he says that it's so bad out there that the sand has been washed away from the beach areas in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, and they may not get it back. And, you know, that's obviously if they ever get through the pandemic up there, you know, that cuts into the tourism business. So, I mean, it's we've I've talked about this in the past. These problems are being felt on both sides of the border.

[00:05:46] Oh, yes. And that's something we often don't see here. The reporting that's happening up in Québec and southern Ontario, especially at Lake Erie and in southern Ontario. Extreme erosion, very severe. And in Georgian Bay, like you mentioned. Beautiful area. But you also had to deal with a little seiche there because on the east side at least they can get some serious wave action. And we are seeing disappearance of quite a few beaches. That's something that happens when the lakes are high. Once they drop down low, we can remobilize that sand within the lake and hopefully build those beaches back up again.

[00:06:26] Talking with Roy Widrig from New York Sea Grant about the new online resource for shoreline property owners, getting back to that.

[00:06:40] How did the property owners go about, as you say, if they plot in their particular property and then. Am I correct in assuming they can upload photos and descriptions of what's going on on a regular basis?

[00:06:56] Yes, they can always resubmit photos. This isn’t a one time thing. They can resubmit it, especially if their situation changes, which, if we get a coastal storm, that's certainly possible. Yeah. And I've actually been pleasantly surprised how well the folks are taking it. It's very much. Here's the problem. They're pretty good at taking shoreline photos, something that I've been trying to perfect for a few years here. But yeah, so just when folks do submit photos, we want to see kind of the whole situation, not just little pieces of it. It makes it easier on my end.

[00:07:35] And obviously, um, you and your folks analyze all the information that comes in. Is this something that's available for the public to see to get an idea what's going on along the shore?

[00:07:48] Not currently, but the way the submissions are set up is that when they come into me, they are plotted on a Arc-GIS map because they all have geographic information. And from that, we can kind of be where most of the reports are coming from. Right now, we're getting a lot of them from Oswego County, which had a lot of heavy wave events this winter. So in time, there might be kind of a resource loop that we create that shows where all these are happening within the Great Lakes region. So that's something we might be putting out in the future. That shows, you know, it's not just you. It's happening everywhere.

[00:08:28] Absolutely. And there's no doubt like places like little Sodus Bay and, you know, really anywhere along the shoreline. But you mentioned Oswego County, of course, being at the east end of the lake. That that whole area there, as you say, gets battered by the usually the prevailing storms that come out of the west. And, you know, we've seen already the photos of the high water and the crashing waves. And it looks exciting, unless you're one of the property owners up there.

[00:09:01] Yeah, a lot of the storms this winter setup so that they really did some damage to Oswego County on the Eastern Shore. They also happened last summer as well. They had a seiche event that actually is more common on Lake Erie. But there was actually one felt on eastern Lake Ontario, especially in the Sandy Pond area this year, where they thought well over 12 inches, the water level rise in a few hours. And that was purely wind driven. That had nothing to do with lake level. That was just an extreme wind event, pushed all of this water up onto land. But it is it. We talked about the St. Lawrence River and Lake Erie. Niagara County was also severely impacted. They get the crosswinds on the shoreline. So any western north facing shoreline get hit pretty hard. It is really it's happening everywhere.

[00:09:55] Well, Roy. Oh, I hope you pardon the pun, but I hope you don't get flooded with a whole bunch of data this year. And it's a quiet two year on the lakes as a whole. And I appreciate you taking the time to join us today to talk about it.

[00:10:11] No problem. Thanks for having me on.

[00:10:12] You bet. Roy Widrig from New York Sea Grant has been our guest and it is 8:26 am 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.

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