Funds Granted to Restore Natural Infrastructure in the Village of Ottawa Hills
H2Ohio and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have awarded The Nature Conservancy (TNC) $437,000 to restore 23 acres of floodplain habitat in the Village of Ottawa Hills, a suburb of Toledo. The project will convert turfgrass into a forested wetland that will capture and filter an estimated 33 million gallons of urban and residential stormwater before reaching the Ottawa River, a tributary that flows into Lake Erie.
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Water quality and aquatic life in the Ottawa River have been heavily impacted by development in the region. Impervious surfaces such as roads, driveways, parking lots and buildings transport water quickly into waterways, taking with it contaminants such as salts, motor oils and heavy metals from the ground. This rapid discharge of large volumes of water into streams after rain events erodes stream banks and causes sediment and contaminants to enter the river.
Capturing and storing urban runoff is an important step to improving water quality in the Ottawa River and ultimately in Lake Erie. Ashlee Decker, the project lead with the Nature Conservancy, said the goal of this ‘natural infrastructure’ project is “to mimic the natural processes that help clean water and reduce flooding.” The project is identified within the Village’s environmental strategic plan, Envisioning a Greener Future for the Village of Ottawa Hills, as a priority action item in meeting their goals.
Funding will support engineering and design, public outreach and project implementation. Design and restoration will involve constructing shallow depressions in the landscape that will capture runoff from two drainage ditches and replanting the site with 5,000 native trees. In addition to stormwater capture, benefits from the project include removing pollutants such as phosphorous, nitrogen and coarse sediment from the water. Passive recreation space and trails will be incorporated into the design, creating more opportunities for people to enjoy time outdoors. The design will aim to preserve most of the mature, native trees, and additional plantings will be consistent with Oak Openings habitats found in the surrounding region.
Otisco Engineering, Land Solutions, Environmental Design Group, and DirtWorks Drainage have been selected as the design and construction team. Two public meetings will be held in Summer 2023 to gather input from residents. The first meeting is on June 8th from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Ottawa Hills High School. Construction is anticipated to begin early 2024 and completed by Sept. 2024. Monitoring and maintenance funded by the grant will continue through 2025.