Ohio Efforts Enhance Lake Erie Ecology and Economy

The Takeaway: Two NOAA-supported projects bring together wetlands restoration and research with landscape conservation strategies.

Urban and agricultural runoff degrades water quality and feeds harmful algal blooms in Ohio’s Sandusky Bay, but two projects are enhancing the ecology and economy of the bay, and beyond. The Sandusky Bay Initiative, coordinated by the Ohio Coastal Management Program, is transforming 64 square miles of open water into a cleaner, clearer resource benefiting wetlands, habitats, and fisheries. And findings from NOAA’s Science Collaborative program are informing dozens of wetland restoration projects across the state. NOAA provided overall support of $647,811.

The Science Collaborative team capitalized upon a long-term record of water-quality monitoring—provided by the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve—to analyze how much phosphorus pollution could be absorbed and stored by different configurations of wetlands. Their results will inform the work of H2Ohio, which is funding the restoration and enhancement of 26 Ohio wetlands. Several Science Collaborative resources have informed restoration projects elsewhere:

The Sandusky Bay Initiative’s in-water wetlands and other project features will expand fish and wildlife habitat, attract waterfowl, and improve bay water quality. Already, progress can be seen on the ground.

Projects Supported by H2Ohio

  • At the Muddy Creek Bay project site, partners are designing flow-through wetlands to encourage nutrient balance, restore lost fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance waterfowl habitat.
  • At the western Inner Bay site, partners are designing in-water shoal and island wetlands to lessen wave energy, improve water quality, encourage nutrient balance, and restore lost fish and wildlife habitat.
  • At the south shore Inner Bay site, nature-based shorelines will absorb wave energy, improve water quality, and enhance coastal resilience and waterfowl habitat.

Projects Supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

  • At the 400-acre Standing Rush site, partners are restoring connections between waterways, enhancing fish access, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, and improving water quality.
  • At the Moxley Marsh site, partners are repairing dikes, restoring connections to nearby wetland and agricultural uplands, and enhancing the marsh’s ability to manage changing Lake Erie water levels.
  • At the 13-acre Pipe Creek site, partners that include one of the world’s largest theme park operators are restoring a wetland by controlling invasive species and replanting native species.

Project Supported by the State’s Healthy Lake Erie Initiative

  • At the Cedar Point Causeway site, partners are reusing clean dredge material to create in-water wetlands that will absorb wave energy, restore fish and wildlife habitat, attract waterfowl, and improve bay water quality.

“I believe [the initiative] will have a huge impact on tourism, not just here in Sandusky but in the entire region,” said Bryan Edwards, director of marketing for Lake Erie Shores and Islands. It includes new, appealing urban waterfronts and extra access points for fishing and paddle sports. That’s great news for Ohio’s 312-mile Lake Erie coast, which already brings $14 billion annually into state coffers from visitors to eight coastal counties.

Support for wetlands research includes $155,421 from NOAA’s Science Collaborative, a program that’s managed in partnership with the University of Michigan. Visit the project page to learn more and access all products. (2019/Updated 2020)

Partners: Biohabitats, Inc., Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, City of Sandusky, Erie Soil and Water Conservation District, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, NOAA Science Collaborative, Ohio Coastal Management Program, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Ohio Lake Erie Commission, Ohio State University, Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, Standing Rush, LLC, Tetra Tech, Inc., University of Michigan Water Center, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Geological Survey