H2Ohio changes Great Lakes landscape

The Ohio DNR and DU celebrate Andreoff Wildlife Area in 2019.

The Ohio DNR and DU celebrate Andreoff Wildlife Area in 2019.

Ducks Unlimited has joined with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and more than 40 other organizations to implement H2Ohio, a data-driven water quality plan to reduce harmful algal blooms, improve wastewater infrastructure and prevent lead contamination across Ohio.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio plan includes agriculture groups, conservation organizations, universities, local and state governments and the private sector. The Ohio General Assembly invested $172 million in the plan for the first two years to find targeted solutions to water quality improvement. A major component of the plan is the restoration and enhancement of wetlands, which filter nutrients before reaching waterways and therefore reduce the impact of algae blooms.

“Priorities for the H2Ohio initiative are centered around preventing harmful algal blooms and improving overall water quality in Lake Erie, a critical source of drinking water for 12 million people,” DeWine said. “We appreciate Ducks Unlimited, a recognized leader in wetland conservation, for their partnership in support of this critically important endeavor.”

In the first phase of funding, the H2Ohio program has allocated $7.1 million to Ducks Unlimited for five wetland conservation projects.

“H2Ohio is unlike anything the state has ever seen in terms of a financial investment into water quality and habitat,” said Russ Terry, DU’s regional biologist covering Ohio. “This is a game changer for the state, and for Ducks Unlimited this is in an opportunity to ramp up our efforts in Ohio, particularly in the Western Lake Erie Basin.”

Land protection – H2Ohio funding was granted to Ducks Unlimited to purchase 278 acres in Wyandot County directly to the east of Andreoff Wildlife Area where a new wetland complex will be restored. The wetlands will utilize drainage from the surrounding agricultural watershed as a water source. This water will feed into the wetlands via a system of pumps and water control structures designed to control flow for maximum nutrient and sediment reduction. DU will donate the new habitat complex to the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife to expand the adjacent wildlife area. 

Wetland enhancement – DU will use H2Ohio funds to design and install infrastructure at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge’s Navarre Marsh Unit. DU will design and install two pump structures that will aid in managing water levels in two wetlands totaling nearly 630 acres of coastal wetlands for the primary purpose of nutrient and sediment reduction. Nutrient-rich water from Lake Erie will be pumped into the marshes where it will be filtered by natural processes and returned to the lake.

Wetland restoration – Ducks Unlimited will restore two managed wetlands totaling 100 acres in the Little Portage Wildlife Area at the confluence of the Portage and Little Portage Rivers in Ottawa County. DU will collaborate with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODOW) to design wetland management infrastructure to divert up to 400 acres of off-site agricultural run-off into the wetlands, rather than flowing directly into the Little Portage River as is now the case.

Natural treatment – Ducks Unlimited is working with the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife to improve water quality in Delaware County at the Delaware Wildlife Area. Water will be pumped from the Delaware Reservoir through a series of two enhanced and two restored wetlands before it flows back into the reservoir with nutrients and sediments removed.

Private lands – DU will use H2Ohio funds to work with several conservation partners to restore a 23-acre emergent wetland in Ottawa County on private land. The project features a pump station that will divert surface and subsurface drainage from 62 acres of adjacent agricultural land into the restored wetland as a secondary water source and to remove nutrients before they reach Lake Erie. 

“Clean water is at the core of healthy wildlife habitat and the good health of Ohio’s residents,” said Jamie Rader, director of operations for Ducks Unlimited’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region. “Governor DeWine’s H2Ohio plan will ensure people, ducks, fish, and wildlife have clean water for generations. Ducks Unlimited appreciates his leadership and the opportunity to work with Ohio DNR Director Mertz to utilize H2Ohio to restore and protect Ohio’s crucial wetland habitats.”

Visit h2.ohio.gov for more information.