Stream Channel Infrastructure - Our Urban Legacy


The term hydromidification in the stream world means to alter the natural flow of water through a landscape, and often takes the form of channel modification or channelization.

Hydromodification is one of the primary sources of impairment in creeks, streams and other water bodies, especially in an urban watershed and region like Cuyahoga County. In the Euclid Creek Watershed for example, there are multiple dams that prohibit fish passage, concrete lined stream segments for flood control or bank stabilization, gabion (rock filled baskets) structures that prevent streambank erosion, and, along the lakefront you'll see giant rock structures that prevent shoreline erosion. All of this infrastructure is very costly to repair and is costly to the ecosystem.

Hydromodification changes a water body's physical structure as well as its natural function. These changes can cause problems such as changes in flow, increased sedimentation, higher water temperature, lower dissolved oxygen, degradation of aquatic habitat structure, loss of fish and other aquatic populations, and decreased water quality. It is important to properly manage hydromodification activities to reduce nonpoint source pollution in surface and ground water.

In the Euclid Creek watershed, the primary impediment to fish passage is a spillway and dam located in City of Cleveland right around I-90 and E. 185th Street at Euclid Creek - right behind the Marathon and Speedway gas stations. A feasibility study is just about to start to look at fish passage options with funding coming from the US Army Corps of Engineers and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), the local sponsor providing local match funding for the study. The feasibility study should take about two years to complete (2017-18), and construction ideally will happen in 2020-2021.

In the mean time, the aging spillway is starting to crumble with giant pieces of concrete falling into Euclid Creek from high impact flow traveling downstream. This is problematic because the stream runs under I-90 through a triple barrel culvert that if blocked, could cause serious damage to infrastructure. So, NEORSD recently started a repair project through their Regional Stormwater Management Program. Doing any kind of work in a stream costs a lot of money - from engineering documents, obtaining appropriate permits, to access easements, to transporting equipment into the stream, to in this case, creating a separate channel for Euclid Creek so the contractors can work on the concrete - a pricetag of ~$360,000. The project timeline is January through April of 2017. Approximately 80 feet of concrete channel stabilization shall be performed, which includes installation of large stones in the creek bottom and replacement of a portion of concrete side slopes.

While hydromodification in a stream system is necessary in an urban environment, there are many new techniques for making repairs in a more natural way - a concept called natural stream design. This relatively new science is still evolving, but focuses on what works best to restore a stream channel's natural stability utilizing plant vegetation (roots) to benefit critters in the stream and to help with structural stability. There are quite a few talented environmental consulting firms in our region implementing natural stream design projects. It will be interesting to monitor these projects over time to see how they are functioning from a stability and biological standpoint.

To keep updated on the progress of the fish passage feasibility study, sign up for the Euclid Creek Newsletter here. Or Like Friends of Euclid Creek on Facebook here.

Blog Author: Claire Posius, Euclid Creek Watershed Coordinator

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