The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Buffalo District awarded recently URS Cooperation and Baird Inc. with a contract to conduct a beneficial use of dredged material tracer study at Presque Isle Bay, Erie, Pennsylvania.
The goal of this project is to trace how sediment naturally moves in the system, to determine if sediments dredged from Erie Harbor can be beneficially used to nourish and potentially accelerate the growth of the distal end of the Presque Isle Bay peninsula.
“Finding a long term solution to managing dredged material is essential to maintaining Erie Harbor,” said Craig Forgette, USACE Buffalo District project manager. “By using natural processes we aim to maximize benefits, thereby reducing demands on limited resources, minimizing the environmental footprint of dredging in Erie Harbor, and enhancing the quality of long term dredging benefits.”
“Presque Isle’s peninsula and bay are vital to Erie’s economy and identity and must be nurtured respectively through shore replenishment and dredging,” said Representative Mike Kelly. “Harbors throughout the Great Lakes need dredging in order support a strong navigation system, and so it only makes sense that we would try to reuse these dredged materials in a beneficial way whenever possible. I commend the innovative work that the Army Corps is doing as a result of commonsense reforms that I was proud to support in the 2014 Water Resources Reform and Development Act.”
Dredged sediment from Erie Harbor is physically characterized as fine sand, silt and clay, not suitable for direct placement upon the beach.
The study will look to see if these sediments could be suitable for placement in the nearshore zone to provide beach nourishment benefits through two mechanisms: (1) Placement of dredged material in the nearshore zone may allow the material to self-sort and some fraction of the material is incorporated in the littoral drift system; (2) Placement of dredged material off the eastern tip of Gull Point creating an underwater shelf that may allow littoral sands coming from updrift to deposit on the underwater shelf and naturally build up the beach profile and eventually result in the growth of Gull Point and possibly increase the overall growth rate of Gull Point.