Ohio: Ohio Environmental Council and Western Reserve Land Conservancy Fieldwork Update

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition works closely with several member organizations in five targeted states to achieve our goal of restoring the Great Lakes. The work our member organizations do in the field is the backbone of our campaign – it amplifies our impact throughout the Great Lakes region. We’ll be collecting stories from the fieldwork being implemented by our member organizations and posting about them periodically. Our latest update comes from the Ohio Environmental Council and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Ohio.

Tour members from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Ashtabula River RAP, and Rep. David Joyce listen to examples of how the Ashtabula Riverfront has been revitalized. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Tour members from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Ashtabula River RAP, and Rep. David Joyce listen to examples of how the Ashtabula Riverfront has been revitalized. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

The Ashtabula River that runs through Ashtabula, Ohio is a gathering place in the community now, although it wasn’t always possible for people to enjoy boating, fishing, or birding on the river. Indeed, the Ashtabula River is still a Great Lakes Area of Concern due to remaining problems from extensive hazardous waste pollution that occurred between the 1940s and the 1970s. Impairments from this pollution impacted fish and wildlife health, causing tumors in fish and prompting the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to issue advisories against consuming fish. Other problems with aquatic life and habitat were prevalent and dredging was restricted due to the toxic pollution in the river sediment. Since that time, huge improvements have been made to the site, including removing tons of contaminated sediment, restoring wildlife habitat, and improving the flow of the river.

Representative Joyce and his chief of staff listen as Karen Adair of the Nature Conservancy explains some of the restoration projects that have taken place on the Ashtabula River. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Representative Joyce and his chief of staff listen as Karen Adair of the Nature Conservancy explains some of the restoration projects that have taken place on the Ashtabula River. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

On Friday, June 27, 2014, members of the Ohio Environmental Council and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy took Rep. David Joyce out on a boat to view the accomplishments that have been made on the Ashtabula River thanks in large part to funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Fred Leitart of the Ashtabula River remedial action plan, or RAP, board attended, as did Karen Adair of the Nature Conservancy, Cam Davis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Matthew Smith of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, and members of Rep. Joyce’s staff. Ron and Nancy Kister supplied the boat. Shelley Terry of the Ashtabula Star Beacon also went on the tour.

Rep. Joyce listens as Cam Davis, Senior Advisor to the U.S. EPA Administrator, discusses the role that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative played in the Ashtabula Restoration thus far. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Rep. Joyce listens as Cam Davis, Senior Advisor to the U.S. EPA Administrator, discusses the role that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative played in the Ashtabula Restoration thus far. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Environmental Council.

The tour focused on the progress being made at slip 5 ½ where wetlands have been restored, fish habitat has been installed, and the overall health of the river environment has been improved. Wildlife habitat is also being restored, including a new GLRI-funded tern habitat along the shore. Rep. Joyce was even able to see anglers fishing—a testament to how far restoration has progressed, considering the river was once devoid of fish.

Check out our full list of field updates from other states and organizations here.

For more information about the Ashtabula River, read our success story write up, or read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s site about the Area of Concern.

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