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.