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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funds
Help Restore Cuyahoga River Habitat

Throughout the Great Lakes states, the Service has been working with other federal, state and local partners to implement the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. In Ohio, we are using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to complete multiple projects over the last four years, including a project along Cleveland’s industrial corridor and ship channel.

In the late 1960s, the early environmental movement was highlighted by the Cuyahoga River, a waterway in northeastern Ohio so polluted with oil and other waste that it actually caught fire. This and other environmental disasters became catalysts that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and legislation to protect natural resources.

Today, the Cuyahoga River is no longer aflame, but it is one of 43 Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes identified as severely degraded in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the United States and Canada. Any changes in the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the water body are considered beneficial use impairments, with eight of the 14 use impairments listed in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement identified in the Cuyahoga River Areas of Concern. Among them is the loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

Steel and concrete pilings along the Cuyahoga River shipping channel currently restrict connectivity between riparian areas that link vegetated and aquatic habitats and provide important corridors for fish and wildlife. The Service has provided $134,089 in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to expand restoration of diverse riparian areas and enhance aquatic habitat at an abandoned marina adjacent to the 5.5 mile-shipping channel. Following removal of contaminated sediments and infrastructure that once housed the marina, native aquatic plants and other fish habitat structures were installed to restore approximately 2 acres of wetland and aquatic habitat.

The project is a collaborative effort and includes $4.8 million of Clean Ohio funds, an additional $3.1 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, and $765,911 of other funding. In all, 38,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed, restoring 11 acres of riparian and terrestrial habitats and creating 3,000 linear feet of fish habitat. Also included is a half-mile extension to a multi-use Towpath Trail, construction of an observation deck, fishing access and interpretive signs that provide recreational and educational opportunities in this densely urban area. Techniques used in this pilot project also will be used to inform ecological restoration projects in other highly industrialized areas. The Cleveland Metroparks will maintain the site and provide interpretive programing. This project has enhanced wetland and aquatic communities, increased public access, and will lead to removing the Cuyahoga River as an area of concern.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative translates into on the ground projects that make Great Lakes basin cleaner and safer for both people and wildlife; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leveraging Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to restore degraded habitat, help remove beneficial use impairments, and revitalize communities impacted by a history of contamination.

By Jo Ann Banda

Before: Contaminated soil and old infrastructure dominated this part of the Cuyahoga River shipping channel. Photo by Jo Ann Banda/USFWS.

Before: Contaminated soil and old infrastructure dominated this part of the Cuyahoga River shipping channel. Photo by Jo Ann Banda/USFWS.

After: The same area now features 11 acres of restored riparian and terrestrial habitat. Photo courtesy of Michael Baker Jr., Inc.

After: The same area now features 11 acres of restored riparian and terrestrial habitat. Photo courtesy of Michael Baker Jr., Inc..

 

Last updated: October 1, 2014