Rocky River Meeting Clean Water Act Goals for Biology for the First Time

Note: For a larger images of the above maps, visit http://myrockyriver.ning.com/maps.

A recent study conducted by Ohio EPA indicates that all 11.8 miles of the Main Stem of the Rocky River are now in complete attainment of its Warmwater Habitat designated aquatic life use. In other words, the Rocky's Main Stem supports the number and diversity of fish and aquatic macroinvertebrates that you would expect to find in a healthy river in its ecoregion. This is the first time that the Main Stem has met its Clean Water Act goals for biology. The West Branch is also in complete attainment, as well as the entire East Branch, except for a short segment near the Bonnie Park dam in Strongsville.

So what led to this remarkable achievement? A number of factors have contributed to the improved health of the Rocky River since Ohio EPA's last in-depth study in 1997:

  • Reduced impact from Waste Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs): Poorly performing WWTPs in Berea, Brook Park, Middleburg Heights and Berea have been decommissioned, with sanitary sewage from these communities now treated by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's Southerly Treatment Works. Upgrades at most of the remaining large WWTPs in the watershed, especially the North Olmsted WWTP, have significantly reduced their impact.

  • The Rise of Stormwater Management: Most of the communities in the northern half of the watershed are now regulated under Ohio EPA's Stormwater Program. As a condition of their municipal stormwater permits, these communities now require improved runoff and erosion controls at construction sites and the installation of stormwater controls such as detention basins and bioretention cells to treat runoff from new development sites. They also take additional measures to reduce stormwater pollution from municipal facilities and track and eliminate illicit discharges to the storm sewer system and local creeks.

  • Stream Corridor Preservation: The Rocky River’s Main Stem and a long stretch of the East Branch are almost entirely contained within the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River and Mill Stream Run Reservations. This largely protects the river itself while the impacts from it contributing watershed are being addressed. Additional and ongoing streamside land and easement holdings by Cleveland Metroparks, Medina County Parks, West Creek Conservancy, Western Reserve Land Conservancy and smaller community parks systems further buffer the Rocky River and its tributaries from the impacts of both historical and continued land development.

  • A Growing Awareness and Commitment to Watershed Health: In 1997, there was no Rocky River Watershed Council. There was no Rocky River Watershed Action Plan. No Rocky River Watershed Coordinator. The watershed movement in Northeast Ohio was in its infancy. Few true watershed restoration projects had been attempted, and many of those would not be considered restoration today (Riprap streambank stabilization! Gabions!). In the nearly 20 years since that last report, the science, practice and importance of watershed protection and restoration in Northeast Ohio have grown by leaps and bounds. There is now a strong coalition of nonprofit organizations, public agencies and watershed citizens committed to the protection and restoration of the Rocky River and its watershed.

Despite this good news, there’s still work to be done, as many of the tributaries continue to struggle to meet their Clean Water Act goals for fish and macroinvertebrate communities, including all or portions of Abram Creek, Baldwin Creek, Blodgett Creek, Cossett Creek, Granger Ditch and both Plum Creeks. Also, bacteria pollution continues to be a problem throughout the watershed.

With the continued assitance of our partner agencies, nonprofit groups, communities and local citizens we can and will restore the entire Rocky River Watershed to full health!

Blog Author: Jared Bartley

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