Port Bay, NY is a small recreational harbor along the southeastern region of Lake Ontario.  This region is characterized by alternating drumlin bluffs and baymouth barriers. The southeastern shoreline’s unique geological features have shaped the ecological and social uses of the area, and its consequent rapidly shifting morphology serves a unique set of sedimentation issues for the region. This region serves as case study in the confluence between ongoing geological processes and subsequent patterns of human uses- highlighting the connections and conflicts that arise between confluence of the geologic and social forces. 

Alternating drumlin bluffs and baymouth barriers comprise the region of Lake Ontario between Sodus Bay and Oswego.  The bluffs nourish the nearshore and offshore zones through erosive actions of wave notching, slumping, and gullying.  Clays and silts are suspended and fluxed offshore as prevailing longshore drift disperses coarse materials, sand and gravel, towards the east.  The traveling sand and gravel are the building materials for the baymouth barriers, protecting the bays, ponds, and marshes that dot this stretch of the shoreline (Pinet, 1998).

Port Bay is one of the many small communities anchored in recreational boating and fishing that surround several of the string of bays existing within this 100 mile stretch of the lake.  However, these recreational activities are reliant on a consistent navigable channel.   With the prevailing longshore drift, structures are built to divert the coarser material from entering the channel, but subsequently and paradoxically, these same structures can serve to block the nourishment of the barriers which protect the bays behind it.   Last year in Port Bay, the DEC reconstructed a barrier which had been eroded to the point of being easily breached by a nor’easter (Buchiere, 2017), depositing over a foot and a half of sediment in some parts of the bay.

Dredging regimes are dependent on the resources and needs of the community as well as the geologic features of the area.   Historically in Port Bay, the operation consists of dredging the channel out each year and placing the material back on the eastern barrier by providing a simple, but heavy-handed mechanism to bypass the interrupted longshore drift.  The community is looking to smartly deal with the dredge material, while protecting and enhancing the current eroded spit- the ten feet of land that protects their bay from the waves.  These smaller operations may provide opportunities to explore alternate ways to deal with material, and to decrease the amount of human labor need to clear the channels and build up the barriers.     

Buchiere, S. (2017) “Steps Taken to Restore Narrow Bar of Land Separates Port Bay from Lake Ontario”. Finger Lakes Times. https://www.fltimes.com/news/steps-taken-to-restore-narrow-bar-of-land-separates-port/article_6b15767c-d353-11e6-b301-c7d9567c418e.html. Accessed March 8, 2019.

F-E-S Associates. (2000) “Regional Dredging Management Plan Final Report”. Prepared for New York Department of State: Division of Coastal Resources. http://web.co.wayne.ny.us/wp-content/uploads/Planning/Projects/RDMP-Final-Report.pdf .  Accessed March 8, 2019.

Pinet, R. P. (1998) “Resolving Environmental Complexity, Southeastern Lake Ontario, NY.  In Welby, C. W. and M. E. Gowan.  A Paradox of Power: Voices of Warning and Reason in the Geosciences. Geological Society of America.