The $13.5 Million Restoration Projects, led by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Promise a Fresh Chapter for Ohio’s Iconic Watershed
The mighty Maumee River, the largest watershed in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes basin, is home to the Clark and Delaware/Horseshoe Islands. Nestled along the City of Toledo’s popular Walbridge Park, the islands are located within a six-mile stretch of the river that hosts more than 1,200 recreational boat slips, including the adjacent Maumee River Yacht Club and the Toledo Sailing Club. The successful implementation of the $13.5 million island restoration projects will improve habitat and water quality, as well as the quality of life for residents, park users, boaters/paddlers, anglers, and naturalists.
The community gathered for groundbreaking celebrations on January 23, 2024. Port Authority President and CEO, Thomas Winston delivered an inspiring message to those in attendance, “The Port Authority is proud to partner with so many great organizations to help administer and now deliver these projects to our community. A healthy Maumee River and Lake Erie is important to all residents of this community. This project will undoubtably improve water quality and provide additional recreational opportunities for all.”
A Community Dedicated to Local Improvements
Due to a variety of factors, these islands have significantly eroded over the years. According to a 2022 feasibility study conducted by USACE, Delaware/Horseshoe Islands lost 34 acres and 39.35% of their upland area since 1963. Likewise, a Verdantas analysis of a 2015 aerial found that Clark Island lost over 28 acres and was a mere 4.7% of its 1940 footprint.
Local recreational boaters urged officials to help restore the islands for many years. In addition to their concerns about the changed landscape, the loss of the upland island areas reduced protection from strong wave turbulence and created safety risks and property damage for those using boat slips at the Maumee River Yacht Club and Toledo Sailing Club, as well as the City’s public boat launch.
Island restoration and improvements were also strongly recommended by attendees of a May 2018 AOC Advisory Committee (MAAC) Aquatic Habitat Subcommittee workshop, which included volunteer members from Verdantas. Current river conditions were examined by scientists, local professors, and natural resource experts. The response to the crucial importance of this project was then set into action.
Over the last few years, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority secured $13.5 million in grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) H2Ohio Program and U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for engineering, design, permitting, and construction activities. With construction efforts led by Mark Haynes Construction, the team began work on the temporary causeways in January 2024.
Verdantas was hired by the Port Authority to lead engineering, design, and permit preparation activities with support from modeling and cultural resource experts. Verdantas finalized construction plans in June 2023 and is now under contract to complete construction observation activities.
Building a Better Tomorrow
Due to the high-profile nature of this project, ensuring community outreach was a top priority. Verdantas was tasked with leading efforts with the larger project team involving project partners and funders, to help prepare and implement a Community Relations Plan. The plan included community events, stakeholder/advisory group meetings, emailed updates, social media posts, and an informative project website.
The Verdantas team members involved with this project include Phil Hicks, PE; Jenny Keffer, PE; Abigail Calmes; Jordan Rofkar, PhD.; Helena Hayter; Liam Schlueter; John Hull, PE; and Jenny Carter-Cornell, APR. Given the three-mile proximity of Verdantas’ Toledo office and the project site, the Verdantas team is honored to contribute to this initiative, knowing it will yield a positive impact on the community. “This project is extremely close and personal to our team. We work here. Some of us live in or just outside of this neighborhood. We recreate on the river,” states Verdantas' own Jenny Carter-Cornell, APR. “I could not be prouder of the Verdantas team and the broader team for their thorough work, or of our community for coming together to champion these projects in partnership with the funding agencies.”
The restoration effort involves two separate, but integrated projects funded by the GLRI and H2Ohio, respectively.
The GLRI-funded project aims to enhance a 50-acre area on and near Delaware/Horseshoe Islands with approximately 12 acres of regraded and enhanced wetlands and 29 acres where phragmites will be managed. The project focuses on restoring part of the original island footprint, improving fish/macroinvertebrate habitat, and enhancing upland wildlife habitat. A planned rock barrier reef/vegetated stone sill will create calm, open water, and provide protection from river flows, boat wakes, and ice scour. Coves will be contoured with varying depths, providing areas with suitable habitat at different water levels. Additionally, the installed wood/rock structures and diverse substrates will enhance fish and macroinvertebrate habitat.
The H2Ohio-funded project focuses on the downstream portion of Delaware/Horseshoe Islands and the entirety of Clark Island. This is an approximately 13.6-acre area with 6.9 acres of wetlands. Project plans include installing a rock revetment to protect the improved area from river flows, boat wakes, and ice scour, as well as creating an interior protected open water area ideal for sediment deposition. Installation of small islands and stone and wood structures will provide essential habitat, slow down water flows, and promote sediment settlement.
To follow the progress of this exciting project, visit Clark and Delaware/Horseshoe Islands Restoration Projects | Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority (toledoport.org).
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