Representatives from the USACE, Buffalo District, the Presque Isle Advisory Committee and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gathered last week to walk the entire length of Presque Isle’s western beach to assess the condition of the beach ahead of the summer swimming season.
The annual spring beach walk is conducted to determine the extent of erosion that has occurred since last winter’s beach walk.
This year, due to the lack of protective ice cover, the beach was exposed to battering wave action throughout the winter. As a result, significant erosion has occurred along the length of Presque Isle.
Presque Isle, a National Natural Landmark, is a 3,000 acre sandy peninsula that arches gracefully into Lake Erie and serves as a natural breakwater that forms and protects Erie Harbor, PA. This unique natural land feature also contains seven unique habitats, provides valuable stopover habitat for migrating birds, and offers valuable nesting habitat for the Federally Endangered Piping Plover.
The Buffalo District is part of the partnership that monitors erosion of the peninsula and inducing the continued growth of Gull Point, which contains the majority of the critical habitat for endangered species. This began with the Presque Isle Shoreline Erosion Control Project, initiated in the 1990s, with the construction of 55 offshore breakwaters along the western shore and 560,000 tons of sand fill.
“Each year, approximately 38,000 cubic yards of sand is needed to offset the impacts of erosion,” said Coastal Engineer Michael Mohr.
The beach is annually nourished with stockpiled sand or sand dredged from an offshore source. The project is cost-shared 50-50 with the non-federal sponsor. This year however, federal funds were not included in the annual appropriations budget.
Geologist Weston Cross, Coastal Engineer Michael Mohr, and Project Manager Michael Asquith assessed various features of the beach and took detailed notes as they inspected the nearly six miles of shoreline. Cross and Mohr were particularly interested in documenting the location and size of erosional features along the shoreline.
“There is erosion into the shoreline which causes a scarp, a cut or erode so that it becomes steep. This is nothing out of the ordinary, but there certainly are a few more this year as compared to years past,” said Cross.
The USACE will consolidate the measurements and calculations taken from this year’s beach walk and will provide a detailed technical report to the project partners.
Park managers will use this data to develop plans to nourish the beaches with as little impact to visitors and residents as possible.