In 2019, Governor DeWine launched H2Ohio, a comprehensive, statewide water quality initiative designed to address Ohio’s most pressing water resource issues. Water quality affects public drinking water supply, aquatic habitat and food chain supplies, harmful algal blooms (HABs), and tourism, which directly impact public health and economic development. The main goals of H2Ohio are reducing phosphorus, restoring wetlands, addressing failing septic systems, and preventing lead contamination in public drinking water supply.
Through H2Ohio, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is focusing on the reduction of phosphorus loading through wetland and stream restoration projects. These efforts will eventually roll out across Ohio but are initially focusing on the Western Lake Erie Basin, particularly the southern portion of the Maumee River Watershed.
ODNR’s numbers to date:
- 83 wetland projects;
- 11,699 acres of wetland and ecosystem restoration;
- 98,681 acres of watershed filtered by wetland projects;
- 40,000+ trees planted in wetland buffers; and
- 90 threatened or endangered species dependent on wetlands, many of which will benefit from this additional habitat.
Nutrient and Sediment Removal Through Restoration
In partnership with Water & Land Solutions and Civil and Environmental Consultants, Inc., Rural Action has received funding from the ODNR H2Ohio Program to develop and implement targeted wetland and stream restoration projects in the Auglaize and Blanchard River watersheds, where the Ohio Domestic Action Plan (2020) data indicate phosphorus loading levels are some of the highest in the Maumee River Watershed. Restoring wetlands in this area will contribute to improved environmental health and generate economic benefits for the region. In addition to improving water quality by reducing and managing phosphorus runoff, these projects will enhance wildlife habitat and help to restore aquatic function to local waterways.
Wetlands are unique ecosystems in that they are zones of complex soil and water interaction that function as “nature’s kidneys,” supporting nutrient cycling and removal. They are marked by plant species that have adapted to thrive in saturated soil, and they provide habitat to a diverse array of amphibians, waterfowl, and other animal species. Wetlands also play a critical role in slowing the movement of water across the landscape by intercepting and attenuating the release of precipitation and flood water. Not only do they help to reduce the risk of downstream flooding and streambank erosion, but they improve water quality by capturing sediment and nutrients that would otherwise enter a waterway. These valuable benefits are considered “ecosystem services,” and they include: flood control, drought prevention, and water quality protection, among others.
The extent of wetland area has decreased dramatically throughout Ohio since the late 19th century, particularly in the northwest portion of the state once known as the Great Black Swamp. Many of Ohio’s water quality issues today can be traced to the loss of the ecosystem services these wetlands once provided. Without the filtering functions of wetlands to protect water quality, water resources in the Western Lake Erie Basin are threatened by harmful algal blooms, nutrient loading, and sedimentation. The resulting impacts to public drinking water supply, fishery resources, charter fishing industries, and other recreation and tourism industries affect economic development and public safety. Restoring wetlands to Ohio’s landscape in order to capture and treat agricultural runoff and erosion is critical to combating these water quality challenges.
We believe the following landscape attributes will contribute to a successful project:
- Location within the Auglaize or Blanchard River watersheds, including the following counties: Allen, Auglaize, Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Mercer, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert, and Wyandot;
- Parcels or several parcels combined that total 50 acres or more;
- Presence of poorly drained soils;
- Fields managed with subsurface drainage tile;
- Presence of streams and/or ditches;
- Few or no utilities or buildings on the property; and
- Contains marginal agricultural land and/or low-producing, flood-prone areas.
Landowners interested in retaining ownership and future use of the project area will enter a conservation easement and receive payment based on the appraised value. If landowners are interested in selling the project area, they will be paired with a local land trust or similar entity and be compensated based on the appraised value.
Depending on the nature of the property and interests of the landowner, the following types of best management practices (BMPs) could be implemented: wetland restoration, targeted treatment wetlands, grass-lined swales, bio-infiltration cells and rain gardens, forebays, and/or phosphorus traps, among others.
Project Timeline and Updates
We anticipate the following timeline for this project:
- February – December 2022: landowner outreach, site selection, and conceptual design development
- January 2023 – September 2024: project engineering, permitting, and construction
Check back for project updates and news!
Contact Julia for more information.
Phone: (740) 677-4047 ext. 360
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I participate in the Targeted Phosphorus Load Reduction in the Western Lake Erie Basin project?
Participation comes with many potential benefits:
- If the landowner is interested in entering the project area into a conservation easement, they will receive payment based on the appraised value of the easement. If the landowner is interested in selling the project area, they will be paired with a local land trust or other entity and be compensated for its sale.
- Projects represent alternative means of generating income on marginal, low-producing, or flood-prone areas.
- Projects will be designed to achieve improved water quality in local streams.
- Projects will result in increased wildlife habitat, particularly for migratory birds.
- Upon completion, project areas could ultimately be utilized for recreation, wildlife viewing, and hunting.
What is a conservation easement?
A conservation easement is a “voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust or government agency that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Landowners retain many of their rights, including the right to own and use the land, sell it, and pass it on to their heirs.”
How long will the easement be in place?
Most conservation easements are in place “in perpetuity,” although some land trusts offer temporary, fixed-term, e.g., 15 years, or more flexible programs.
Is there any cost to the landowner?
There is no cost to the landowner. Projects completed under this program will be designed to be self-sufficient, so the landowner should not expect to have to perform any maintenance.
What can I do with the conservation easement?
The conservation easement and project area can be utilized for recreation, wildlife viewing, and hunting.
Why was my property selected?
Your property was selected because it met our team’s criteria for landscape attributes that are likely to contribute to a successful project. The following factors were assessed to the extent possible using geospatial mapping software: location, size, soil type, drainage management, proximity to stream channels and managed ditches, potential for floodplain connectivity, minimal presence of utilities or infrastructure, and presence of flood-prone areas.