The restoration of the portion of the Ottawa River flowing through The University of Toledo Main Campus soon will be complete with the final phase of in-stream work to begin this month.Student workers of the Maumee Conservation Corps from Partners for Clean Streams already have begun clearing of the riverbanks to prepare for the major in-stream construction work that is scheduled to begin Monday, July 29. The clearing will remove non-native invasive plants along the riverbank with no extensive removal of trees planned, and replanting of native species will take place later this summer.
“This phase will focus on aquatic improvements, including adding large rocks and logs to mimic natural water flow and get a ripple effect in the water,” 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 is essentially uniform with very limited ripples or turbulence. Adding these natural materials will make for more diversity to the aquatic habitat giving fish and other aquatic organisms more places for nesting, spawning, food and shelter.”
The President’s Commission on the River in 2009 started the habitat restoration efforts for the 3,700 feet of the waterway that runs through Main Campus. This current work is funded with a $235,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and a $151,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and represents the largest project undertaken to date by the commission. The restoration project also involves the assistance of Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, EnviroScience, Partners for Clean Streams, Ohio EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Ecological Restoration Inc. has been hired for the final in-stream restoration phase, which is scheduled to be complete Aug. 16. Signs will be placed along the river to inform the community of the work being done; however, no bridges or roads will be closed during the restoration, and disruptions to the University community will be kept to a minimum, Lawrence said. A workshop and public tour about the project are being planned for early August.
Summer is the best time to complete the project because there are fewer people on campus, the river water is at its lowest levels, and it is after the fish-spawning season during the spring, reducing impacts to the natural habitats, Lawrence said.
The in-stream work is the final phase of the project that has included adding more than 300 native plants and trees along the banks of the river and creating a cut bank area near the Law Center last summer that will allow for more water storage during higher river levels.
Another related milestone for the Ottawa River on Main Campus was achieved in February 2012 when the fish consumption advisory, with the exception of carp, was lifted for the river by the Ohio Department of Health and the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department. The advisory had dated back to 1991 when it was issued by the Ohio Department of Health as a result of the decades of manufacturing activity and improper waste disposal of hazardous substances in the Ottawa River and its watershed.
“We have more than 40 fish species in the river, and we’ve noticed additional wildlife such as small mammals, birds, turtles, frogs, mallard ducks and Canada geese,” Lawrence said. “We look forward to the completion of the restoration that will further enhance the river and add more wildlife diversity.”