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Ottawa River Contact Advisory Removal

Ottawa River Press ConferenceRecently, the Toledo Lucas County Health Department held a press conference on the historic removal of the no-contact advisory from the Ottawa River. In 2011, the advisory was lifted for 17 miles of the western part of the Ottawa River. The lower 8.8 miles of the river from Stickney to Lagrange Street had remained under advisory for over 25 years due to high levels of PCBs and other contaminants until earlier this year. For many years, the Ottawa River was once considered the most polluted waterway in Ohio due to its downstream position from the area’s industrial landfills and heavy manufacturing. Building on the decision by the Ohio EPA to allow limited consumption of fish caught in the Ottawa River in 2017, this announcement proves that the dedication and collaboration of government agencies, organizations, and concerned individuals can make positive environmental impacts. Much effort has been made to cap the pollution flowing into this river, remove historic contamination, and promote its recreational and social value. Increased water recreation opportunities, enhanced aesthetics of the river, and increasing populations of birds and wildlife are all indicative of an improved river. While there is still work to be done, the progress made, in part, by the Maumee Area of Concern Advisory Committee has been vital to restoring the health of the Ottawa River and relinking the community to this water resource.

Toledo Lake Erie C3W

C3WlogoThe Greater Toledo Lake Erie Clear Choices Clean Water campaign lets individuals play an active role in improving water quality in our region. The goal of this campaign is to increase community awareness of water quality issues and encourage actions that can address those issues. The interactive website allows users to take pledges in five program areas: Volunteer Service, Native Plants, Super Kids, Lawn Fertilizer, and Pet Waste. Visit the website at www.toledolakeerieclearchoicescleanwater.org. This campaign helps promote community and individual stewardship to enhance aesthetics and habitat within the Maumee AOC through simple, everyday choices. The MAAC is supporting the campaign by providing funding from a Supplemental Environmental Project fund that received financial contributions in lieu of fines & penalties from companies for past pollution issues within the AOC. PCS also distributes educational materials, programs, and provides staff support to help grow the campaign’s visibility.

MAP Project Spotlight: Toussaint Wildlife Area Coastal Wetland Restoration & Fish Passage

Toussaint Wildlife Area is a 231-acre coastal wetland complex located in a bend of the Toussaint River in Ottawa County, Ohio, approximately four miles from Lake Erie. Toussaint is a popular public use area owned by the Ohio Division of Wildlife (ODOW) and managed to provide coastal wetland habitat for wildlife and outdoor recreation. Toussaint was formerly a waterfowl hunt club and as such the management infrastructure was set up to establish five separate wetland management units with at least 6 water control structures and a pump station. Currently, there is no reliable way of managing water levels within the complex due to failed and improperly placed infrastructure. As such, the habitat quality within the marsh has suffered. Additionally, there is no hydrological connection with the Toussaint River, and the several miles of existing levees are a maintenance burden for ODOW.

ducksunlimitedDucks Unlimited is leading a restoration project on the property. A topographic survey and an engineering design for the property, funded by NOAA with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, indicate that a complete renovation of the management infrastructure would drastically improve ODOW’s ability to manage water levels and aquatic vegetation, allow for a direct hydrological connection with the Toussaint River in two locations to restore fish access into the wetlands, and significantly reduce the maintenance burden by removing unnecessary internal levees and water control structures, converting five wetland management units to just two. Because of the expected benefits to fish and wildlife, this project has been approved by the U.S. EPA as a management action project (MAP) helping to lead to the delisting of Beneficial Use Impairment 14b (wildlife habitat) in the Area of Concern. The original cost estimate to complete this work was $3.32 million and so the decision was made to fund this project in multiple phases.

Phase I of the restoration is underway and is being funded by two grants awarded to Ducks Unlimited (DU). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $280,000 Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act (GLFWRA) grant and NOAA provided another $600,000 through a regional partnership agreement from the AOC-specific GLRI funding. Phase I is expected to be complete in fall 2018. Interesting aerial views of the actual property & restoration underway can be viewed here.

The Nature Conservancy secured a Sustain Our Great Lakes grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and has sub-awarded $532,797 of this grant to DU to implement Phase II of this restoration project. Phase II construction is expected to get underway in fall of 2018 and should be done by summer 2019.

DU, ODOW and others are now seeking the funding needed to support the third and final phase of this restoration project. The multi-phase, multi-partner approach to this project highlights one of the strengths of the Areas of Concern program and its many partners working together to improve habitat.

AOC 101

In 1987, the Maumee Area of Concern was established following ordinances of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The US EPA and Ohio EPA determined the course of action necessary to improve water quality within the Maumee AOC. The Maumee RAP (Remedial Action Plan) Committee was thus formed through a collaborative effort between government agencies, businesses, citizens, and universities interested in addressing water quality issues within this area. Today, the committee has been reformed and renamed as the Maumee AOC Advisory Committee (MAAC) to improve the Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs) of the AOC. This committee meets every other month to discuss problems, programs, and potential solutions to address the delisting of 9 BUIs the Maumee AOC program has been tasked with removing. Partners for Clean Streams serves as the facilitating organization for MAAC. If you are interested in improving water quality and ensuring fishable and swimmable water, be sure to attend the next MAAC meeting, which will be held in April and announced on http://www.MaumeeAOC.org.

MAAC Summit: Moved to the Summer

The annual Summit, usually held in December, will be re-invented as a field tour in the warmer months. This will allow the MAAC to showcase the many active or recently completed restoration projects going on in the Area of Concern. And who doesn’t like to get out of the office, too?

The Maumee AOC Committee works toward fishable and swimmable waters in the Maumee Area of Concern and delisting the beneficial use impairments. The Committee is working towards all major restoration projects being completed by 2025, through collaboration of partners and volunteer opportunities by its facilitating organization, Partners for Clean Streams. The committee is made up of representatives from various organizations, citizens, businesses and non-government agencies to build long term solutions to the area’s water quality issues.