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Future climate impacts to Lake Erie win NOAA grant

July 5, 2023

NOAA supports wetland restoration and plastic cleanup to control future flooding risks. Lake Erie is projected to face more stormwater runoff, erosion and changes in water quality as well as water levels. Projects to mitigate these future climate impacts will get funded via NOAA’s Climate-Ready Coasts grants.

The federal agency awarded $8.2 million for four projects in Ohio. Selected projects target environmental cleanup, conservation and restoration. Joelle Gore, chief of the stewardship division for NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, said that projects within larger initiatives and that address climate impacts often also bring multiple benefits.

Habitat restoration lessens flooding risks

About 75% of NOAA funds will restore 44 acres of shoreline at the Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, outside of Cleveland. Natural wetlands are optimal for stormwater management because they allow water to flow between the stream and surrounding land during future heavy rain storms. Subsequently, the restoration should control erosion and sediment transport into the bay.<

The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with the state’s H2Ohio program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Division of Wildlife on this green infrastructure project. The project is also part of the larger Sandusky Bay Initiative, which deals with multiple environmental and transportation issues for Ohio’s coastal communities.

Conservation along the Chagrin River

Another 20% from the NOAA grant will help purchase and conserve 105 acres of land along the Chagrin River, also near Cleveland. The property will connect to two other parks along the River. The city of Willoughby will hold title to the property. More wetlands restoration and natural habitat conservation will help control flooding and reduce runoff into Lake Erie, while residents and tourists can enjoy the open space and walking trail.

Addressing plastic pollution

The other two projects target plastic pollution that occurs with intense storms.

The Ohio Sea Grant program will develop a plastic-free coalition for the Cleveland area and then the Wisconsin Sea Grant program will expand a similar plastic-free program in the metro Milwaukee area. The goal is to reduce the use of single-use plastics by businesses and individuals, which should in turn cut down on pollution in the watersheds.

Under the Ohio Sea Grant in partnership with the Cuyahoga Community College Youth Technology Academy, underserved and underrepresented students work will develop training resources for two beach trash removal devices, a robot and a drone. The devices are on loan from the Council of the Great Lakes Region for the pilot project.

Plastics and other materials gathered will be sorted and information submitted to the University of Toronto’s trash team, before data enters an international database. The Ohio Sea Grant said trash data will inform pollution prevention.