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Great Lakes' environmental, economic, educational value noted in NY Sea Grant impact series


Mon, Mar 4th 2019 02:50 pm

The environmental, economic and educational benefits of Great Lakes-focused projects spanning Lake Erie to the 1000 Islands region are highlighted in the 2019 New York Sea Grant (NYSG) series of impact statements recently posted online at https://seagrant.sunysb.edu/articles/r/12919.

In 2018, NYSG's Great Lakes extension specialists, based at the University at Buffalo, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County in Newark, and at the State University of New York Oswego focused on:

  • Helping communities, businesses and property owners learn about flood-related coastal hazards and processes, and resiliency measures;
  • Facilitating new research and public education related to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario freshwater fisheries;
  • Providing excellence in Great Lakes coastal education opportunities for teachers and more than 17,000 students; and
  • Administering small grants empowering localized stakeholder-driven conservation projects.

Building Flooding Event and Erosion Resiliency

Several NYSG projects in 2018 informed Great Lakes coastal communities and stakeholders about ways to build resiliency to flooding events. For example, NYSG partnered with the Genesee-Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council to develop and conduct a post-flood recovery visioning workshop in the Village of Sodus Point, a Wayne County community hard hit by the record-high Lake Ontario water event in 2017. Sodus Point Mayor David McDowell said, "Going forward, we will review the workshop recommendations for actions we can take to put us in a much better position to deal with future events."

NYSG played a key role in providing flood resiliency training for municipal staff in the Great Lakes region as well as designing and delivering a workshop to inform property owners about using innovative, sustainable, and nature-based shoreline protection practices as an alternative to utilizing hard structure installations for reducing the impact of erosion.

In collaboration with NYSG marine district educators, NYSG Great Lakes has begun developing and testing a monitoring system to assess the ecological, hazard mitigation and economic benefits of natural elements and nature-based shoreline installations.

To address the loss of shoreline dune habitat and the development of a sand shoal that has impeded boat traffic into and out of Lake Ontario at North Sandy Pond in Oswego County, NYSG helped form a committee to research the associated environmental issues. Seventy-some residents and business owners attended an August 2018 information session to learn about proposed management options that may include dredging to improve pond and Lake Ontario access and using dredging material to restore dune habitat.

Enhancing Great Lakes Fisheries

Great Lakes fisheries received NYSG attention in 2018 through a workshop focused on the restoration of Cisco, an historically important fish in Lake Ontario, particularly for the Chaumont Bay area of Jefferson County. At the workshop, experts shared their knowledge of Cisco and identified research and monitoring priorities for the future.

Additionally, NYSG initiated efforts to reduce barotrauma to Lake Erie Yellow Perch. Barotrauma is tissue damage caused by the rapid expansion of the swim bladder of the fish when retrieved from deep water.

Outstanding Coastal Education

In recognition of outstanding efforts in Great Lakes educational outreach and teach-the-teacher professional development training, NYSG Coastal Education Specialist Helen Domske received awards from the International Association of Great Lakes Research and the Science Teachers Association of New York State.

In 2018, Domske led teacher workshops in coastal counties and aboard the U.S. EPA Lake Guardian research vessel on Lake Ontario. Additionally, Science Exploration Day at the University of Buffalo provided 1,000 students, including those from underserved schools, an opportunity to interact with researchers and scientists to learn about science careers and environmental issues.

Funding Stakeholder Projects

To encourage local stakeholder-driven Great Lakes ecosystem-based management application, NYSG partners with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to administer the New York Great Lakes Basin Small Grants Program. Since its inception in 2015, the program has awarded more than $850,000 shared across 37 local projects.

Local projects from Western New York to the St. Lawrence River Region receiving the small grants funding in 2018 focused on building shoreline community climate resiliency, ecosystem restoration, assessing opportunities to enhance waterfront access, evaluating the integrity of shoreline septic systems, and a hydrologic study to attenuate flooding impact on a Monroe County village and its residential structures.

To learn more about New York Sea Grant, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, visit www.nyseagrant.org.

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