Surveying Lake Ontario Harbors

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Buffalo District employees from the Planning Management team have been out in the field this summer surveying marina owners and operators from 6 harbors in Lake Ontario between Wilson Harbor, Wilson, NY and Little Sodus Bay Harbor, Fair Haven, NY. 

The purpose of the surveys is to provide a detailed summary of the economic benefits generated by recreational boating and fishing activities. The 6 harbors surveyed were Great Sodus Bay Harbor, Little Sodus Bay Harbor, Irondequoit Bay Harbor, Oak Orchard Harbor, Olcott Harbor and Wilson Harbor.

“Interactions with the marina owners on harbors in our district provided interesting insight into the day-to-day operations and how the public-use affects their local economy,” said Richard F. Whipple, III, Plan Formulator.

A separate economic evaluation report of each harbor is being prepared. The reports will focus on the economic benefits generated by the operations of public and private marina facilities supporting recreational boating, fishing, tourism, transient boaters, and other water related activities. Findings will include regional economic impacts of recreational boating in terms of boater spending and job creation.

The studies are being performed to provide data that may help justify dredging and other maintenance activities at recreational harbors.

The Corps of Engineers support dredging harbors/channels to authorized depths/widths, but recreational harbors are faced with the challenge of not receiving regular maintenance dredging. Federal funds are allocated based on performance outputs and national economic development benefits. So, commercial harbors and navigation channels receive the bulk of federal funding for dredging and maintenance efforts.

From a federal budget perspective, boat harbors serving primarily, or solely recreational users do not produce high priority outputs. Therefore, the President’s budget continues to give priority to those harbors and waterway segments that support high volumes of commercial traffic.

“The reports generated from the recreational harbor surveys will help show that marinas at recreational harbors are key generators of economic benefits to the region and nation, as well as support the need for funding for operations and maintenance of recreational harbors,” said Debbie S. Slater, Regional Economist. 

A 2008 study by the USACE Detroit District found that 4.3 million registered boats, nearly one-third of all recreational boats in the U.S., were registered in and around the Great Lakes. The study further stated that boating and boating activities in the Great Lakes totaled approximately 16 billion dollars and directly supported over 100,000 jobs.

Story by Shaina Souder, USACE