Kaylee Belden enjoys a swim in Port Henry. Facing a 2013 deadline, the town of Moriah may be forced to make a difficult decision to save its Bulwagga Bay beach and campsite.
Facing a 2013 deadline, the town of Moriah may be forced to make a difficult decision to save its Bulwagga Bay beach and campsite.
The town-owned facility is being damaged by Lake Champlain erosion. Without action the public beach and 175-site campground will be lost.
“We’re losing 6 to 10 feet of beach a year,” Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava said. “We’re losing the beach; we’re losing the campground.”
The shoreline has moved back 25 to 40 feet since 1995, according to the Adirondack Park Agency.
Realizing the problem two years ago, local leaders secured permits from the APA, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build three revetments made of half-ton rocks reaching into Lake Champlain to combat the erosion. The revetments are 4,080, 4,110 and 4,670 square feet in size, and the beach end of each will be enveloped in landscaped trees and shrubs.
The town also applied for a $500,000 grant from the state to cover the cost of the project. To date, there has been no one on the grant.
“We’re on the clock to complete this project,” Scozzafava said. “Those permits expire next year and we have to finish the work.”
If the grant application is not approved soon, Moriah officials will have to decided whether to borrow the money for the Bulwagga Bay project or let Mother Nature takes it course.
“No one wants to spent money, but Bulwagga bay is a tremendous asset to the community,” Scozzafava said. “We can’t let it just slip away. If we don’t get the grant we’ll have to bite the bullet and borrow.”
Tim Garrison, a Moriah town board member, agrees.
“We’ll have to borrow the money,” Garrison said. “It doesn’t do anyone any good to just let it go. The beach is one of the few sources of revenue for the town.”
Bulwagga Bay generates an average of $280,000 a year for the town, Scozzafava said. That money is used to off-set local taxes.
If the town borrows money for the erosion project, the loan will be repaid using Bulwagga Bay revenues, the supervisor said.
“The money to repay the loan won’t come directly from from our residents, but it will impact taxpayers,” Scozzafava explained. “It’ll mean there is less money to apply to the tax levy so taxes will go up unless we can find the money someplace else.”
The Bulwagga bay erosion project will likely be completed in the fall of 2013, the supervisor said. It’s expected to cost $400-500,000.
“It has to be done,” Scozzafava said. “We’ll do as much of the work as possible ourselves to keep the cost down.
“Bulwagga Bay is important to our local economy,” he added. “It attracts tourists, it provides local jobs and it plays a role in our economic development.”
Garrison believes the project should be a priority.
“I believe Bulwagga bay is an important part of our community,” he said. “It’s key to our future economic growth.”
After the project is finished it will require annual monitoring of erosion and water levels on the beach. The town will be allowed to fill in — or “re-nourish” — areas above the revetments where any erosion takes place.
“We will have to do some work there every year,” Scozzafava said. “Erosion will always be a problem there. Hopefully, this gets it under control.”