PORTHENRY-Moriah has been granted permission to fight Mother Nature in its effort to save Bulwagga Bay beach and campground.
The Adirondack Park Agency has given the town a variance that will allow work to stabilize the waterfront, which is being lost to erosion.
"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 APAstaff. Moriah built a breakwater in 1995 and began filling iron ore tailings into places where the beach eroded, keeping Lake Champlain at bay. The town stopped the annual process, however, when it was informed it needed state and federal permits.
Since that time, Moriah has received permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the state Department of Health. The APAvariance was the last item needed for approval.
At the APA meeting in April, APA staff planner Tom Saehrig presented a plan 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.
APA staff recommended conditions with the variance that 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."
Bulwagga Bay is home to a public beach and a 175-site, town-owned campground.
Scozzafava, who attended the APA meeting, said the campground generates about $170,000 a year for the town. That money will be used to help pay for the $400,000-$500,000 project. The remainder of the costs will be borrowed.
The plan to stabilize and "re-nourish" Bulwagga Bay cost the town $35,000. A grant from the Department of State paid for $25,000 of that expense.
Construction on the new beachfront and revetments will likely begin this fall, probably in October, Scozzafava said, when the lake is at its lowest water level.
Scozzafava said town officials couldn't stand by and watch the beach and campground disappear.
"We have a responsibility to maintain town property," the supervisor said.
Bulwagga Bay is also a recreational and economic asset to the community, he noted, attracting hundreds of visitors to town each season.