EPA grant expected to fund restoration of entire campus section of Ottawa River

September 14, 2011 | News, UToday
By Josh Martin

A $235,000 grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency received earlier this year initially was expected to finance the President’s Commission on the River’s restoration project for just 900 feet of the Ottawa River near Savage Arena. The commission now expects the funds to help pay for restoration improvements along the entire 3,700 feet of river on Main Campus.

This button bush was one of the native species planted along the Ottawa River on Main Campus.

This button bush was one of the native species planted along the Ottawa River on Main Campus.

The initial concept designs for the restoration of the Savage Arena section of the river provided by the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were presented last spring to the UT community.

At the time, those involved thought projected costs were sufficiently low to allow the funds to cover a broader restorative project, said Dr. Patrick Lawrence, professor and chair of the Department of Geography and Planning, and chair of the President’s Commission on the River.

The designs of this expanded project are being drawn up again with the assistance of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with the construction of the final in-stream river elements to be completed by August 2012.

The river installations could include hydraulic cover stones, locked logs, semicircular stones attached to the bank, and bendway weirs, which would help provide a diversity of flow, plus cover and habitat for aquatic wildlife, said Bryan Hinterberger, a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working on the project.

Hinterberger said more analysis of the river and planning is needed to determine whether the installations can be maintained and to ensure that they will not impact flooding on campus. Three concept designs with different combinations of these elements will be prepared, but one design will be chosen.

Information on proposed river restoration will be on display Thursday and Friday, Sept. 15 and 16, in Carlson Library as part of Celebrate Our River Week.

Test plots of native aquatic and stream bank plant species were planted on the river’s banks, and their growth and health over the next year will be observed to determine which species are well-suited to the river ecosystem. The first test plantings were installed in May.

Lawrence said 80 live stakes, which are plantings of freshly hewn cuttings of vegetation such as tree branches, and 40 other plants are being tested and are all doing well thus far. These plantings will provide improved habitat for riverbank and aquatic species and help address bank soil erosion.

In addition to the plantings, Lawrence said the restoration will be comprised of the strategic positioning of natural materials such as stones and woody debris within the river and along its banks.

All of these efforts are designed primarily to improve the aquatic habitat of the river.

If the final concept designs for the restoration call for it and the necessary funding is available, additional goals will be pursued, such as stream bank stabilization efforts to decrease erosion of the bank soil through the planting of trees and shrubs, and efforts to allow for better storm-water discharge, Lawrence said.

Disturbance to the river and bank sediments will be kept to a minimum, he added.

The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments has been hired as a subcontractor to aid in the management and coordination of the project.

According to Lawrence, the EPA Nonpoint Source Management Program funding this project is designed to aid “local agencies and organizations at addressing issues associated with impaired water bodies impacted by non-point source runoff and pollutants.” A state panel competitively reviews proposals for use of the money.

The concept plans are partially funded by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, with the design and education elements of the project also supported by a grant from the Stranahan Foundation, Lawrence said.

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