Nature returns to an urban creek in Cleveland

Project Summary Urban development in Cleveland left Big Creek, a tributary of the Cuyahoga River, a polluted mess that was prone to flooding. An ambitious restoration project returned the creek to a more natural state. The project reduced polluted runoff and created wetlands and other habitat that benefited fish, wildlife and people who live near the creek


Project name: Big Creek Watershed Stormwater Management Improvement.

Location: Cleveland, Ohio.

A section of Big Creek before the restoration project began. (Photo courtesy of Biohabitats)

Description: A group of government agencies and private engineering firms developed a plan to restore nearly one mile of Big Creek, which was disfigured by decades of urban development. Intense development increased the volume of polluted stormwater that flowed into the creek, the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Human activities also straightened the creek, separated it from natural floodplains and destroyed wetlands. The restoration work removed large debris from the creek, stabilized eroding stream banks, replaced defective culverts, created wetlands, reconnected the creek to the floodplain and restored its natural meander. Crews also planted native vegetation along the restored stream banks.

Approximate cost of project: $923,758.

Resource challenges addressed: Soil erosion, non-point and point source pollution, excessive stormwater runoff, loss of wetlands and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

Key partners (public and private): The cities of Parma and Cleveland, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and the city of Cleveland’s Division of Water Pollution Control. The engineering firms DLZ and Biohabitats designed the restoration project and managed construction activities. Biohabitats prepared stream channel restoration designs for 4,500 linear feet along the Chevrolet Branch of Big Creek.

The same section of the creek after the restoration work was completed. (Photo courtesy of Biohabitats)

Types of jobs created: Environmental engineers, hydrologists, ecologists, biologists, excavators, landscape architects and landscapers.

Results and accomplishments: The restoration work created wetlands and other habitat for fish and wildlife and restored a more natural flow in the creek. The work also curtailed flooding and reduced the volume of sediment and other pollutants that wash into the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie following rain showers or periods of snow melt.

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Originally Published: January 13, 2012