Lake Erie's South Breakwater getting $6M reinforcement

Aug 2, 2019

More than a century of sitting on the edge of Lake Erie in Buffalo Harbor has worn down the South Breakwater to the point it is getting a year-long $6 million rehab.

Since Buffalo is much less of a shipping hotspot than it once was, the breakwaters that protect the harbor are much less noticed. The original breakwaters nearly two centuries ago created the harbor and protected the end of the Erie Canal. Today, mostly they sit there, clearly visible in winter when massive winds show up as foamy water coming over the top.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Project Manager Lex Barker said the South Breakwater is a very unique section because of the soils. The lake bed there is very soft and it creates an issue and allows for more damage than other sections. Barker said much of the 1,000' breakwater needed an expert look.

The site work started is expected to be completed in 2020.
Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

"Damage caused us to do a little bit more research, because this happened a few different times, and so what we're doing now is unique for breakwater work along the Great Lakes," Barker said. "We're creating a stability berm, which is essentially larger stone, and it's going to cover a larger footprint, to ensure in the future we don't have the damage that we've had in the past."

Some might think of what is being installed to protect the breakwater as boulders, since they are in the 12-16-ton range, necessary when the winds of winter come storming off Lake Erie. Barker said the year-long project will install protective stone on the lake side of the breakwater, with 625' of the 1,000' wall getting special protection.

The repair area is shown on this map of Buffalo's harbor.
Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers