The East River Marsh (ERM) area was identified by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) as a priority component of the forthcoming Niagara River Habitat Plan for Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) Removal. The goal of the ERM Habitat Enhancement project — within Beaver Island State Park on the southeastern tip of Grand Island and adjacent to the Niagara River — was to contribute progress toward two of the delisting criteria for the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat BUI: restoration of coastal wetlands and the enhancement of degraded shorelines and nearshore aquatic vegetation.
Collaborating with NYSOPRHP, WSP provided an innovative restoration design that included lowering the proposed reef elevations to protect the reef from wave action and invasive species; expanding off-channel habitat for fish and other native species; adding additional shoreline protection that provides habitat for fish and a food source for native avian species; improving two unique inland habitat features — an off-river pond and an abandoned historic ferry slip — that had become unsuitable from years of sediment deposits and invasive species; and restoring and reconnecting the existing trail system to provide access to active bird watching areas.
The project involved installation of five reefs with a sustainable design that prohibits the growth of invasive vegetation, provides fish breeding and protection habitat, and requires less long-term maintenance while providing wave protection to the shoreline. It also expands public access and increased recreational use by achieving 2,600 feet of uninterrupted and protected shoreline and trails.
Our team provided 100% design plans and specifications, developed required regulatory permit applications, provided support during bidding and engineering support during construction activities, and managed stakeholder communication and public outreach. We leveraged multiple innovative approaches in the design, including the application of planting bags for the installation of Emergent and Submerged Aquatic Vegetation. Additionally, we used the conceptual design on behalf of the NYSOPRHP to develop a grant application for funding the remaining design and construction through the Great Lakes National Program Office, which saved significant time and cost.
WSP's successful design approaches and techniques, which achieved the project goals and provided the means to revitalize the marsh's ecosystem, protect the native species and connect the local community to the area, have been used in other NYSOPRHP restoration designs.