HURON, Ohio — An $821,000 grant to fund a project to develop incentives for effective stormwater management in Ohio’s Lake Erie basin was recently awarded to a conservation team led by the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Inc., according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Funding for the three-year project is provided by the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Other members of the stormwater management incentives team include the ODNR divisions of Wildlife and Soil and Water Resources, along with the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District.
Stormwater runoff from developed land causes severe impacts throughout coastal Ohio, leading to streambank erosion, sedimentation, water pollution and habitat degradation.
During the past 50 years, the Midwest and Great Lakes region has experienced a 31 percent increase in heavy precipitation events according to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. Several “100-year” precipitation events have struck northeastern Ohio in the past decade.
This trend is projected to continue, leading to more frequent flooding that can overload drainage systems and water treatment facilities, degrade aquatic habitat, increase infrastructure damage, and heighten the risk of waterborne diseases.
“In Erie County, many communities have experienced intense storms over the last five years that have resulted in localized flooding in neighborhoods, even outside of the FEMA defined floodplain,” said Eric Dodrill, Perkins Township highway superintendent and project collaborator.
Stormwater impacts can be reduced through approaches that mimic the natural functions of a landscape by increasing absorption and filtering of rainwater where it falls. This project will assess the effectiveness of systems like pervious pavements, bioretention, constructed wetlands, and bio-engineered swales at reducing runoff and develop incentives for use of those that minimize water pollution and impacts on aquatic habitat.
Heading the study will be Amy Brennan of the Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Inc., Heather Elmer of the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Jay Dorsey of the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Resources, Breann Hohman with the Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, and Ona Ferguson of the Consensus Building Institute.
A focus of the NERRS Science Collaborative is to link scientists with “end-users,” who apply the science to improve and sustain coastal communities and ecosystems. To further this goal, the collaborative requires that end users be involved with project development, and that the research is a high priority for at least one of 28 NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserves located around the U.S. coast.
This year, the Science Collaborative awarded $6.1 million to seven projects.
“Competition is intense across the nation,” said Frank Lopez, manager of Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve. “This project tackles an important issue affecting lower Great Lakes coastal resources and will produce positive impacts on streams and rivers in the Lake Erie watershed.”
Chagrin River Watershed Partners, Inc. will coordinate the project team and develop tools and resources for use by its member communities and others. This work will build on the past efforts of the organization, including monitoring of low impact development stormwater systems.
“The idea is to fund research that addresses problems communities are facing here locally, as well as elsewhere along Great Lakes and ocean coasts,” said Heather Elmer of the Ohio Coastal Training Program at Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve. “We are engaging engineers, developers, and others from the beginning to ensure the research meets local needs and that results can be widely implemented.”
Elmer will facilitate an interdisciplinary group of engineers, developers, water scientists and regulators that will work together to evaluate the effectiveness of stormwater systems and develop incentives for those that reduce runoff and minimize the impacts of intense storms on coastal habitats and communities.
The city of Aurora, Perkins Township, city of Sandusky, Erie County, GPD Group, CT Consultants, Forest City Land Group, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, and Ohio EPA have all committed to participating in the project.
The ODNR Division of Soil and Water will evaluate the performance of systems selected by end users and the project team. Research results will be translated into user-friendly tools and resources for local and state regulators, design engineers, and others to calculate the flood control benefits of systems such as pervious pavement, rain gardens, or green roofs.
Most of the field work will take place in the Chagrin River, Old Woman Creek, and Pipe Creek watersheds.
“One of the biggest hurdles to implementing innovative stormwater systems is they are currently not credited for all the functions they provide,” said Jay Dorsey, co-investigator on the project and water resources engineer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Resources.
“Measuring these functions and acknowledging them in state and local design guidance will create both economic incentives and a clearer pathway to implementation.”
Erie Soil and Water Conservation District will facilitate participation of officials and stormwater professionals in Erie County and assist with identification and monitoring of area projects.
“We are committed to providing education and guidance to help landowners and communities best manage our natural resources. Forming a collaborative group to reduce barriers to effective stormwater management is an excellent approach that will increase partnerships to protect our shared resource, Lake Erie,” said Breann Hohman, Firelands Coastal Tributaries watershed coordinator with the district.