Designing a regeneration zone for the Cuyahoga River Valley: Ecological restoration

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The potential for ecological restoration of the lower Cuyahoga River is presented as part of a planning for a Regenerative Development Zone (RDZ) in industrial/ commercial land near downtown Cleveland. First, hydrology, water quality, and fish and invertebrate data and composite biological indicators are presented for this lower reach of the Cuyahoga River. While there are some signs of recent improvement in river fish richness, the biological indicators generally still indicate poor aquatic habitat. Channel dredging, large ship use, and rigid shoreline pilings limit the diversity of habitat and ensure continual resuspension of chemically contaminated river sediments. We present three general alternatives for restoration of the riverine system. One is the creation of 70 acres of oxbow wetlands on the floodplain terrace with seasonal hydrologic connections to the river but otherwise with connections to upland urban runoff. A second alternative is for the restoration of a 0.5-mile reach of a tributary stream, Kingsbury Run, to the Cuyahoga River, thus avoiding some of the problems associated with restoration of the Cuyahoga River itself while providing a significant habitat connected to the river. A third alternative considered is 5.6 miles of “pocket wetlands” along the Cuyahoga River riparian edge itself. Costs and ecological benefits of each of these options are provided. Cessation of river channel dredging and improvement in water quality in the upstream river are vital to any effective restoration techniques in the lower Cuyahoga River. Data on costs of a detailed study of the lower Cuyahoga River and of demonstration projects that would be needed as the next step are also provided.


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Cuyahoga River, Ecological restoration