Public meeting to detail designs for Ottawa River restoration project | UToledo News

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Public meeting to detail designs for Ottawa River restoration project

University Photographer Daniel Miller took this shot of the Ottawa River on Main Campus.

Imagine crossing the bridges on Main Campus and seeing a vibrant Ottawa River — water rippling over rocks and flowing around locked logs, native plants and trees flourishing on the banks, ducks dipping to dine on insects.

Thanks to a $235,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and a $111,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that vision of the President’s Commission on the River is moving toward reality.

A public meeting to unveil and discuss preliminary river restoration plans will take place Tuesday, Feb. 14, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Student Union Room 2591.

A team from the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will unveil concepts and field questions at 9:30 a.m.

“The idea is to use a variety of techniques that use natural materials — rock, tree trunks, wood material — to create changes in the river flow to enhance the aquatic habitat and provide increased shelter for fish and aquatic organisms,” said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Planning, and chair of the President’s Commission on the River.

“Right now the river almost functions like a concrete drainage ditch; the water is flat, and there are no changes in the way it moves, no change in materials. Natural streams have much more diversity in terms of how water moves and have different materials in the river channels,” he explained.

Plans call for recreating nature in various ways in five sections of the river.

“Each section will have different types of structures appropriate for that location,” Lawrence said. “There’ll be a range of in-stream restoration features along the river, and signage will explain the work and why it’s there.”

In addition, this demonstration and education project will mean more fish and wildlife.

“We want to attract more fish and the critters fish eat, and improve the diversity of plants and other animals that call the river home,” Lawrence said. “Forty species of fish already have been identified in the Ottawa River, but we want to do much better and have an improved aquatic habitat for plants and animals.”

At 10:45 a.m. at the meeting, Lawrence and Matt Horvat of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, which is a subcontractor to help manage the restoration project, will discuss a plan for vegetation plantings along the river’s edge and banks.

Last May, some 120 test plantings started taking root along the river. The growth of these trees, shrubs, plants and vegetation is being monitored and will determine what would be best-suited to grow along Ottawa River to help improve habitat and decrease bank erosion. Additional plantings will go in next fall and in spring 2013 as part of the project.

The restoration plans will be finalized by April, Lawrence said, with improvements slated to begin this summer on the entire 3,700 feet of the waterway on campus.

“Our hope is to improve conditions on campus and to educate and inform the University and local communities about what can be done with urban streams,” he said.

Weather permitting, the meeting also will include a walking tour of the river to highlight the improvements planned.

For more information about the free, public meeting, contact Lawrence at patrick.lawrence@utoledo.edu or 419.530.4128.

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