Dredging a drag at Silver Creek boatlaunch

OBSERVER Photo by Jeremy Izzio While the view of the beach in this photo is a sight to behold, to those who live along Beachview Drive in Silver Creek, it could be a lot more picturesque — if the village would stop dredging.

A number of beachfront properties in Silver Creek are having problems with the issues that dredging the creek causes, as proven when a number of residents spoke up at the recent Silver Creek meeting.

Tony Favorito, of 8 Beachview Drive, approached the board to present his findings regarding erosion on his property’s side of Lake Erie.

“My concern is related to the amount of erosion that’s happening on the lake front that’s right in front of our property,” said Favorito. “I know the lake levels are fairly high right now compared to most other years, but the beach is 100 percent gone, and we’re up at the point where the lake is up against the breakwall all the time.”

According to Favorito, there’s usually a consistent 70 feet of beach up against his property, but since 2015, there’s no sand, rock or any beach to speak of, really.

“There was a change that happened somewhere in the bay. Based on a request to the Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corps of Engineers, all the materials being dredged were being put on the east side of the creek versus being spread east and west sides, creating erosion on the west side of the bay, which is affecting my property.”

Favorito asked the board if there was any research that could be done regarding the effects of dredging to only one side of a body of water, and if it could be done before this year’s dredging. He found out from Silver Creek Mayor Nick Piccolo that unfortunately, this year’s dredging has already occurred, and there’s a lot of discrepancies between the DEC and the Army Corps of engineers that needs to be sifted through before anything of epic proportions could take place.

Piccolo explained to Favorito the reasoning behind dredging to only one side. He also stated that fixing the dredging issue wasn’t for lack of trying — there’s just a lot to be dealt with on the DEC’s end.

“Up until this year when we dredged, our permits did not merit us to put the sand on your side of the beach. Everything had to go onto the Hideaway Bay side, because they claimed that was the erosion side,” explained Piccolo. “The other thing is, their more or less feelings are, they’re more concerned about bank erosion than they are lake erosion, so that’s why they wanted everything put back onto the Hideaway Bay side.

“…The Army Corps and the DEC, they’re not on the same page. One tells you one thing and another tells you another. When you include the Coast Guard — because I didn’t realize they were involved, either — they’re worried about the erosion line along lakeshore all the way down, and they don’t help matters,” Piccolo said.

According to the mayor, Congressman Tom Reed is working on trying to fix the dredging problem in Lake Erie near Silver Creek, and the village is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to hopefully get a study done on the body of water. The Army Corps was recently granted $25,000 and the village is hoping they will allocate some funds to the village for a study to see what can be done to stop the erosion and prevent the creek mouth from filling back in mere days after it’s been dredged.

“They took care of Westfield, and they’re going to take care of Dunkirk. They did work down at Sunset Bay, and we’re hoping they’ll do a study that will determine we need something there. All the sediment that comes down is coming from Arkwright, and unless we have a heavy current, it doesn’t go anywhere,” Piccolo said.

“After we (dredged), in three weeks, you could walk across. It was all filled in. The DEC doesn’t allow us in there to do anything unless there’s a permit. They come in and threaten, ‘Well, you have to stop, or we’ll arrest you.'” Piccolo claimed. “…It’s not that we’re not trying to do something, we just have to try to get this attention, and we’re hoping with this money being appropriated, that through Congressman Reed, they might realize we do need some work done.”

Engineer Michael Dee, of 10 Beachview Drive, said, “I hear a lot of things from people who are trying, and who mean well, but don’t necessarily know how it works,” before giving an in-depth analysis of the dredging issue in Silver Creek.

Some of his observations include: Creek drainage only extends 8-10 miles but is constantly compared to Cattaraugus Creek, which has 50 miles of drainage, so people shouldn’t compare the two in regard to flow consistency and depth; in Silver Creek, the water level rises rapidly during downpours because it channels into narrow gorges; summer flows in Silver Creek disappear almost entirely when there is no rain, so flow is only driven by artesian seepage; water at the mouth is not stagnant when the land bridges the creek mouth — the flow permeates the gravel.

Regarding storm currents in Silver Creek: Scouring storm currents are littoral, flowing east to west — a hole to the east is filled from the west; and water levels in the bay during storms will rise up to eight feet when driven by strong southwest winds on the back side of a low pressure system.

Some causes of the flooding of Silver Creek include: Ice Jamb flooding if/when Lake Erie freezes over and creeks melt rapidly; or if flash flooding occurs from (rare) extreme rainfall on the north side of the Chautauqua Ridge.

Some of the effects of dredging on flooding and flows: dredging prevents ice jamb flooding, no matter how deep you dig at the mouth — the only thing that can be done is to dig out the ice at the mouth when the flood occurs; flash flooding is not caused by conditions at the mouth — in fact they will run over and wash out the land at the bridge of the mouth. Dredging does not help this.

“Dredging is a waste of taxpayer resources,” said Dee. “If you dig a hole, nature will fill it in immediately. This is the first law of thermodynamics. … Closure of the mouth is not caused by ‘silting;’ it is from natural littoral currents. … We put a boat launch in a seasonal creek. Keeping it open during dry seasons will be costly and ecologically destructive. Instead, consider opening the end of Jackson Street to launching like we used to before dredging in the 60s destroyed that option.

“If we keep dredging, we will undermine the sea walls, and possibly the houses on Front Street and perhaps Front Street itself. This happened in the ’70s — how much will this cost in lost property values? We have lost at least three feet of beach height, and 40-60 feet of frontal depth. With water levels rising, we are at serious risk of irreversible damage from the loss of material caused by dredging,” Dee stated.

“I don’t know that the people from DEC or Army Corps really care about this. I think we’re a checkmark on their list. Let’s check our assumptions on the validity and value of dredging for flood control, because I’m not sure that that’s the answer. If that ends, the beaches reconstitute themselves, and I think the flooding goes away,” Dee concluded.

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