Project transforms farm field into a coastal wetland

Project Summary: A former wheat field in Ohio was transformed into a 171-acre coastal wetland along western Lake Erie.

This 171-acre coastal wetland was created along western Lake Erie. (Ducks Unlimited photo)


Project name: Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge wetland restoration.

Location: Oak Harbor, Ohio.

Description: Coastal wetlands are valuable natural resources that provide a variety of functions in freshwater ecosystems. Wetlands filter pollutants out of stormwater before it reaches lakes and rivers, control flooding and provide habitat for plants, fish, wildlife and insects. Wetlands were widespread across the Great Lakes prior to European immigrants settling the region in 1800s. Since then, the Great Lakes watershed has lost 62 percent of its original wetlands, and some parts of the region have lost more than 90 percent of these habitats, according to Ducks Unlimited. The loss of wetlands has fragmented Great Lakes ecosystems and eliminated habitat that is critical to waterfowl. To counter the loss of wetlands, which continues despite laws designed to protect the natural features, groups like Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy are working with the federal government to restore coastal wetlands. In 2013, those groups joined forces on a $1.3 million project to restore 2,500 acres of marsh (including nearly 600 acres of wetlands) in the western Lake Erie basin. The first phase of the project, which created a 171-acre wetland in a former wheat field, included the installation of water control devices, pumps and fish ladders. The fish ladders allow desirable species to enter the wetland while keeping out destructive species, such as carp. The restored marsh and wetlands provide new habitat for fish and wildlife, control flooding and reduce the amount of polluted runoff that reaches Lake Erie.

Approximate cost of project: $1.3 million, which was provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s habitat restoration program.

Resource challenges addressed: Loss of wetlands, coastal flooding and loss of habitat for fish and migratory birds.

Key partners (public and private): Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Types of jobs created: Biologists, hydrologists, ecologists, heavy equipment operators and general laborers.

Results and accomplishments: The first phase of the project created a 171-acre wetland that will support more fish and provide additional habitat for migratory birds.

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