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Study aims to protect Buffalo shorelines from major storm events

Lake Erie ice
Posted at 5:10 PM, Jan 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-12 17:19:37-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Environmental activists and leaders want to make sure parts of Western New York shores are prepared for when and if the next major storm hits. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper recently launched the 'Buffalo Coastal Resiliency Study.'

Jeanne Beiter is the project manager and senior program manager with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper.

"Lake levels are rising. That is concerning," she said.

All eyes are now on Lake Erie and Buffalo's coastline because of this study which aims to evaluate flood risk and look at solutions to protect the shore. Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is partnering with the City of Buffalo for this study with Ramboll Engineering as the consultant. Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation is funding the project.

"We're starting to see the changes in how weather comes across the lake. So, in the past 5 years, we've had significant increases in extreme storm events much more than we've experienced in the past 50 years," Beiter added.

Beiter said these changes are happening because of the nature of the lake and climate.

"These issues aren't going to go away. They're just going to be exacerbated even more so," she added.

Beiter said the study looks at how to better protect our shorelines and make them more resilient if and when a storm strikes. Teams even set up cameras at Wilkeson Pointe and the Outer Harbor during the blizzard to learn from these time-lapse videos of how these areas are hit during storms.

"The hope of all of that is that we will have better tools in our toolbox to address those concerns," she said.

One of her concerns — is how Lake Erie has not frozen over this winter.

"There's no ice cover right now on the lake maybe there won't be maybe in a month right that should trigger something that's not normal," Beiter explained.

This is something Sean Crotty, Town of Hamburg emergency manager, is noticing. His area is one that is often hit hard by major storm events.

"What we see with the climate is really more stronger magnitude storms because of the fact that the lake is open and the wind is able to drive across that open water," Crotty said.

Crotty said this is becoming a recurring thing.

"It's really, really kind of escalated in the last few years since 2018, 2019 it's gotten more frequent," he added.

By spring, Beiter said the study will be in a modeling phase. By the end of the year, the goal is to put out recommendations so these hard-hit shorelines are prepared for the worst.

"So, taking the efforts now to improve our shoreline, to improve our community resiliency, this is the time to do it," she said.