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Final Braddock Bay designs ready 

The US Army Corps of Engineers has released proposed designs for a project intended to restore the Braddock Bay wetlands. The agency will hold a public meeting on the designs at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 7, at Greece Town Hall, 1 Vince Tofany Boulevard.

Corps representatives will explain the plan and what happens next. And members of the public will be able to submit written comments.

Braddock Bay is an important, state-owned wetland area along the Lake Ontario coast in Greece; it's one of few Lake Ontario coastal wetlands larger than 100 acres. But it faces twin threats which are harming the wetland's suitability as habitat for species including black tern, northern pike, and muskrat. The threats are erosion from waves coming in off the lake and overgrowth of an invasive cattail variety.

"That wetland there is a pretty high priority area," says George Thomas, executive director of Center for Environmental Initiatives. "That whole habitat area of Braddock Bay is one of the few of its type on Lake Ontario. It's worth preserving."

To address the erosion, the Corps plans to build an artificial barrier beach at the mouth of the bay. It'll be made out of large limestone boulders, with the spaces between the boulders filled with sand from the bay and plants, so that the barrier blends in with the environment, says Josh Unghire, a Corps restoration ecologist and planner on the Braddock Bay project.

The barrier should also prevent sand from drifting into the bay, which could be a side benefit to boaters and the bay's marinas.

The Corps' plan also includes steps to increase habitat diversity in key areas of the bay. It calls for removing invasive cattails in those areas and creating a system of channels and potholes, which are essentially small, shallow ponds. The approach would create open areas of wetland attractive to key species including the black tern, a water bird that historically nested in the bay. But a tern nest hasn't been spotted there since the 1990's.

Some higher-diversity meadow wetlands remain at Braddock Bay, and the channels and potholes will transition into those habitats, Unghire says. The Corps also plans to establish a couple of acres of additional coastal marsh in one section of the bay.

Unghire says that the Corps is finalizing cost estimates for the project, but that it's expected to cost between $9 million and $9.5 million. The agency will seek funding through the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Town of Greece, the State Department of Environmental Conservation, and some local environmental officials and groups have voiced their support for the project. Senator Chuck Schumer has repeatedly called on the federal government to fund it.

The designs are available here: http://www.lrb.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/DistrictProjects/BraddockBay.aspx

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