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Ottawa River project aims to restore 15 acres of native habitat

Invasive species removal, erosion control are top priorities
Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 6:19 PM EDT
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OTTAWA HILLS, Ohio (WTVG) - It was just two summers ago that a 25-year no-contact advisory was lifted for an 8-mile stretch of the Ottawa River. By this time next year, 15 acres of habitat will be restored along the riverbanks just south of Central Avenue.

“Ottawa Hills has really come a long way in the past few years, and they’ve taken an interest toward being more environmentally conscious,” says Alexis Sakas from The Nature Conservancy. “The village decided to work with us over at The Nature Conservancy to really strategize what they could do, so we’ve worked together to create an environmental strategic plan.”

Ottawa Hills High School students started the ball rolling last year, removing invasive species like bamboo and honeysuckle -- and now, the generation that grew up unable to swim in these waters will be partially responsible for the restoration.

“They’re in a special place here where they’ve got the Ottawa River running straight through the community," says Sakas. “We’ve had high-schoolers out even just sampling for fish and invertebrates, so it’s been cool to see them getting excited about what they’re seeing in the stream.”

Today, crews were out cutting down stands of bamboo, which can sap a lot of nutrients from native plants. “There are some other species of concern in here that are aggressive and turning this into sort of a monoculture,” Sakas explains, “where you just don’t have much diversity with the way these species take over. It becomes kind of a barren landscape, where this bamboo for instance will grow so thick that nothing else can really make use of the habitat as far as birds or invertebrates.”

Nutrient runoff from agriculture upstream is one concern -- erosion is another. “We are seeing some erosion back through this stretch, so plantings will be focused to help stabilize those banks. With how dry it’s been, we’ll be able to get in and do some good planting, then those will be able to handle the energy as water comes rushing down through the watershed.”

Through an EPA grant, The Nature Conservancy hopes to start replacing diseased ash and elm trees here -- along with other native shrubs and grasses -- by the month of March.

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