A plan to address problems of high levels of fecal bacteria along Lake Erie beaches near Maumee Bay State Park isn’t ready for bulldozers to be mobilized but it is ready for grant writers to be mobilized, says an executive with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.
An open house for the public to comment on the Wolf Creek/Berger Ditch Restoration Plan will be held Nov. 4 at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge. The plan is a proposed system of ponds, wetlands, and floodplains to naturally remove bacteria before it reaches the bay that will cost about $5.26 million, including the design, permits, and construction.
The open house will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. A 45-minute presentation begins at 7:15 p.m.
The session will provide the public with a chance to see the results of studies tracking bacteria in the area and review wetland designs and watershed information.
“A lot of this started in the mid 1990s when all we had were headlines about bacteria problems in the area,” said Kurt Erichsen, Vice President of Environmental Planning at TMACOG.
Lake Erie beaches have had health advisory postings an average of 14 days a year, and as many as 50.
The Wolf Creek Committee, and its predecessor the Maumee Bay Bacteria Task Force, have been trying to identify the causes of bacterial contamination.
According to the plan, bacteria from many sources enter Maumee Bay but task force studies show the principal sources of bacteria at the park beaches are from Berger Ditch, which is part of the Wolf Creek watershed. The creek starts in Northwood and flows northeast through the City of Oregon and Jerusalem Township.
When Wolf Creek reaches North Curtice Road, the stream turns north and follows the road as Berger Ditch. Inside the park, the ditch flows into Maumee Bay adjacent to the lake’s beaches.
Erichsen said part of the problem has already been addressed by the City of Oregon’s investment of about $10.5 million in sanitary sewer extensions to reduce bacteria entering the stream by the elimination of failed septic systems and “package” sewage treatment plants.
The Toledo/Lucas County Health Department has also conducted tests on other septic systems in the area and had those repaired or replaced.
Erichsen said research continues on other sources of bacteria in the watershed, but the Wolf Creek Committee has focused on protecting the beaches by reducing bacteria levels in the stream.
The plan proposes stream corridor habitat and wetland projects that will treat the stream water and remove sediments and phosphorus and nitrogen before it reaches the bay.
The plan proposes to construct:
• Sedimentation ponds along the north side of Wolf Creek between Corduroy and North Curtice roads to capture sediment, nutrients, and bacteria from stream water.
• Floodplains of up to 11 acres along the same stretch of Wolf Creek. The floodplains will include wetlands with vegetation to remove nutrients and bacteria from stream water.
• A terraced wetland system of up to 25 acres along the west side of Berger Ditch in the park. The terraces will be designed for flow through the soil after the creek has receded from a storm. Planners say the subsurface flow will be effective in removing pathogens from stream water.
• Streambank habitat restoration along the west side of Berger Ditch as it flows past the park’s inland lake. The habitat corridor could cover about eight acres with an average width of 100-150 feet.
Some property along Wolf Creek is already owned by the City of Oregon, which is in negotiations to acquire a conservation easement on a privately-held parcel.
According to the plan, city officials have said they won’t use eminent domain to acquire property.
Data compiled by the Ohio Department of Health indicate the department issued 14 recommendations this past summer to post water quality advisory signs for the inland lake and Lake Erie beaches at Maumee Bay State Park due to high bacteria levels.