Erie and Ottawa counties to benefit from lake funding

SANDUSKY Erie and Ottawa counties are slated to receive millions of dollars of new federal funds fro
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Erie and Ottawa counties are slated to receive millions of dollars of new federal funds from a measure just signed by President Barack Obama that seeks to restore the health of the Great Lakes.

Obama signed the $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative measure Oct. 30.

According to officials in Gov. Ted Strickland's office, the money Ohio receives would help fix problems that include invasive aquatic species, wildlife habitat restoration, water pollution, contaminated sediment cleanup, water quality monitoring, and beach monitoring and cleanup.

A draft document released by the Ohio Lake Erie Commission lists proposed projects that include $4.5 million for the restoration of Sheldon Marsh in Erie County and $2 million for renovation of the East Harbor State Park Beach Day Use Area in Ottawa County.

The document cautions it's still a draft, and the projects listed are "subject to change."

The Sheldon Marsh project is to restore a barrier beach that protects an important wetland, said Brenda Culler, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Office ofCoastal Management in Sandusky.

"A barrier beach is a sand spit or a stretch of sand," Culler said. "Behind the barrier beach is a wetland or an estuarine environment."

The barrier beach at Sheldon Marsh is one of the best examples of a barrier beach in Ohio, but it has been heavily eroded, she said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying how to stop the erosion.

If the barrier beach is breached, the wetlands behind it "would become just the open waters of Lake Erie," Culler said.

East Harbor State Park has suffered erosion of its beach for years, Culler said.

It could be fixed by beach nourishment, which consists of "bringing in sand to the beach constructing dunes and planting of dune vegetation," she said.

The document also projects that Erie MetroParks will receive money for its project to purchase 77.5 acres of land in two parcels on Kelleys Island under the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. The land is located next to Kelleys Island State Park.

The $2.9 million project cost would be split between the federal funds and local money that's being provided to the park system by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

Many of the other programs mentioned in the draft document are spread across the Lake Erie basin, and it's likely that Erie and Ottawa counties will get a share of that money.

For example, the draft document proposes spending $3 million to carry out action plans for the various rivers and streams in Lake Erie's watershed.

Breann Hohman, watersheds coordinator for Firelands Tributaries at the Erie County Soil and Water Conservation District, said she's busy working on a list of projects for which to seek grants.

She said she is focusing upon two proposed projects to reduce sediment washed into the water along the banks of streams.

Studies show that the largest amount of sediment in Old Woman Creek comes from the eastern branch, which runs along from the southeast tip of Berlin Heights through Huron County in highly erodible soil.

"Another hot area is Brod Ditch, which actually runs along Bellamy Road," she said.

That ditch also empties into Old Woman Creek. The erosion is so bad, Bellamy Road might become compromised by it, Hohman said.