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Project Highlight – Oak Openings Priority Conservation Area

Yellow Lady Slipper OrchidIn keeping up momentum gained from sharing some recent MAAC-recommended project successes, we’ve got another highlight for you! Most, if not all of you are familiar with the Oak Openings Region, an area historically dominated by Oak savannas and wet prairies, and understand it’s ecological value. It is exciting to say that the MAAC works in and around an area that despite its size (just 0.5% of Ohio’s total land area), is home to one-third of Ohio’s rare plant and animal species! Unfortunately, this area has been dramatically altered over the last 200 years through drainage, agriculture, fire exclusion, and urban expansion.

In order to address the loss of wildlife habitat (BUI 14b) associated with the disturbances listed above, Metroparks Toledo, in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (as part of MAAC-recommended projects MAP 4-16 & MAP 10-16) acquired four separate tracts of land, totaling 31 acres, within areas designated as Oak Openings Priority Conservation Areas. Project goals are to ultimately provide habitat protection for threatened and endangered wildlife species that inhabit the Oak Openings, enhance habitat connectivity by creating corridors between existing protected parks and preserves, and improve water quality within the Lake Erie watershed through the protection of wetlands, floodplains, and uplands draining into the region’s rivers and streams.

Specific management practices used in these parcels to achieve the aforementioned project goals include;

  • Preparation of the project areas for native plantings by removing woody invasive plants such as glossy buckthorn encroaching on prairie and savanna habitats using hydro-ax mowing and application of selective herbicides;
  • Enhancement of existing high quality habitat through the use of prescribed fire, mowing and other best management practices; and
  • Removal of trash and debris left behind by previous landowners.

These sites will enjoy permanent protection from future redevelopment and will act as refuges for native wildlife for years to come! See summaries of more exciting projects on the MAAC projects page!

AquaMAP Project List Approval

Late July saw some much anticipated news come to the MAAC, as it was announced that the AquaMAP Project list was approved by U.S. EPA GLNPO. The 53 projects on this list were evaluated and conceptualized over several years by a dedicated subcommittee. These projects are located across the Maumee AOC and will address BUI 3a (Degradation of Fish Populations), BUI 6 (Degradation of Benthos), and BUI 14a (Loss of Fish Habitat). Management actions include instream habitat restoration, riparian buffer installation/enhancement, two-stage ditch installations, and much more. Please stay tuned for more news as these projects begin and then updates on progress over the next several years!

Ohio EPA Video Release

OEPA Screening EventAttendees of the August MAAC meeting got a sneak peek at an exciting video set to premiere in just a few weeks on October 7th. Benefiting our Community, Restoring our Waters, produced by Ohio EPA, includes great Maumee AOC scenic footage and interviews with individuals who represent various facets of the AOC program and its progress. There will be two virtual screenings of the video on the 7th, one at 3:00pm and another at 7:00pm. To register for one of the screenings, please use the Webex video conference links below. Each 45 minute screening will include the 13-minute video and a Q&A session during which attendees can ask partners about recent progress and future plans. Please make sure to register - we hope to “see” you there!

Webex Registration Links (click on preferred time):

Tenmile Creek Riparian Corridor Restoration

Tenmile Creek Restoration

In the Maumee AOC, we benefit from many local partners who work with us toward AOC goals; even using funding external to the AOC program. We are fortunate that when these “external” projects are closely aligned with a specific AOC impairment, many project leads provide the MAAC with information needed to consider the benefits of that project as part of the solution to the impairment.

One such example is the Lucas County Engineer’s recently completed Tenmile Creek Flood Mitigation and Stream and Riparian Corridor Restoration project. This project is being considered in the overall remedy for impairments to fish habitat and fish and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the Tenmile Creek HUC-12.

Major work within approximately 2-miles of Tenmile Creek in Sylvania Township, Ohio has been completed by the Lucas County Engineer’s Office with funding through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Lucas County Stormwater Utility. The Lucas County Engineer’s Office has completed construction of approximately 9,000 feet of two-stage channel with native plants planted in the bench area and banks of the stream. 

The two-stage channel will improve water quality by slowing the water during peak flows and allowing time for particles to settle out into the bench area, reducing phosphorus loading and sedimentation downstream. The native plantings in the bench will also serve to capture particles and other sedimentation as well as use the phosphorus in the water column as fertilizer. In addition, the two-stage channel will improve flood storage capacity within the banks of the creek and help alleviate flooding on adjacent properties. Construction of two-stage channels have been proven to reduce sediment and nutrient transport into the Great Lakes. 

This project is anticipated to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loadings in the stream which have been linked to the development of harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. The project was awarded a $200,000 grant towards the $1.9 million construction cost from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Management Action Project Spotlight – Toussaint Wildlife Area

TWA AerialFollowing an article last fall that summarized progress made on the MAAC-recommended management action (MAP) projects for Beneficial Use Impairment (BUI) 14b (Loss of Wildlife Habitat), we are excited to spotlight another BUI 14b project.

The Toussaint Marsh State Wildlife Area was an existing impounded wetland complex located near the town of Oak Harbor, roughly five miles from Lake Erie. The site is adjacent to the Toussaint River and includes 125 acres of emergent and lowland shrub wetlands within western Lake Erie’s coastal zone. Habitat in this area of Ohio was historically dominated by emergent and forested wetlands. Human activities dramatically altered this landscape, resulting in the loss of more than 90% of the historic wetlands.

The impetus of project work at the Wildlife Area was failure of existing water control management structures necessary to maintain quality wetland habitat. As such, the ultimate goals of this project have been the restoration and redesign of the existing impounded wetland in order to improve the quality of habitat for fish and wildlife in the coastal region of Lake Erie and the restoration of hydrological connections between the wetlands and Toussaint River.

Project work has been phased over a number of years. Phases I and II of the project are complete and Phase III will be completed this summer (2020). Primary management practices have included;

  • The removal and replacement of existing water control and pump structures with improved infrastructure;
  • The restoration of sections of the external levee; and
  • The removal of more than one mile of internal levees.

The new and improved water control/pump infrastructure will allow for use as flow through systems/fish passage if desired, and also increases the efficacy of invasive species management within the wetland. Removal of the internal levees established one large wetland where four small wetland units previously existed, increasing connectivity and diversity of habitat within the wetland. Project partners predict that the creation of a larger and more continuous area will greatly benefit amphibian, reptile (turtles and snakes), and fish species that reside in the area.

This project was a collaborative effort among the Ohio Division of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, with financial support provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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.