The Willoughby-Eastlake School of Innovation Stream Restoration Project is located in the City of Willoughby Hills in Lake County in the Euclid Creek Watershed at the headwaters of the East Branch of Euclid Creek. This tributary is wooded, which is a rarity in our highly developed, urban watershed characterized by degraded habitat and polluted stormwater runoff.
The Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District received a $156,462 grant through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Section 319 Grant Program to conduct the restoration project October of 2017. The grant requires a local match of 40% which is committed by the City of Willoughby Hills through their Lake County Stormwater Management Program Funds, up to $104,000, and by the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD), up to $50,000. The restoration provides an opportunity for students at the School of Innovation to be involved in a restoration project from the planning stage through to implementing the long term monitoring and maintenance of the restored segment of Euclid Creek.
To date, through NEORSD matching project funds, CSWCD hired local consultant, the Environmental Design Group to serve as the criteria engineer and construction oversight manager. They will assist the Watershed Program Manager at CSWCD in developing the RFQ to hire the design-build contractor who will construct the project this fall (2018). They will also oversee construction once the project begins.
Project Partners/Technical Committee:
City of Willoughby Hills
Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District
Friends of Euclid Creek
Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District
Lake County Stormwater Management Department
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District
Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools
To see the project fact sheet, click here.
To see the detailed concept plan designed by Biohabitats, Inc. through a Cuyahoga Area of Concern (AOC) Habitat Restoration Project Planning grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) in 2015, click here.
The Natural Resource Problem
The East Branch of the Euclid Creek watershed draining into the study area is approximately 1.43 square miles. The watershed is composed of a mix of dense residential development, open land with light commercial development, and woodland. The reach to be restored begins at the fence at the western edge of Route 271 and extends almost 500 linear feet downstream to the utility right-of-way culvert. The site also contains just over 200 linear feet of a headwater tributary that also exits a culvert under Route 271.
Problems in this stream segment include, bank erosion, channel downcutting, intrusion by invasive plant species, an undersized/failing culvert, and an inability of the stream to access its floodplain. These conditions limit the biological communities and ecological services provided by the stream and are aesthetically unappealing. The riparian vegetation consists of mostly mature trees intermixed with snags and vernal pools with patches of phragmites in more open areas. If left in their current condition, the creeks will likely continue to downcut and erode stream banks until reaching a point of equilibrium, but this channel evolution will come at the cost of further erosion, habitat loss, increased sedimentation downstream, and reduced water quality, and will further jeopardize infrastructure such as the undersized culverts, potentially causing another debris jam and culvert bypass event.
To address the existing issues, the conceptual design shows rehabilitated creeks by raising the stream invert by introducing cobble riffle structures and grading a floodplain bench within several less vegetated areas. The culvert would be replaced with either an open bottom culvert, partially buried culvert with substrate in the bottom, or ideally a low ford riffle crossing if allowable. This concept also shows the re-establishment of native riparian woody vegetation along the floodplain where grading is occurring to take advantage of the benefits provided by a natural forest buffer, such as slowing overland flow, capturing woody debris, and processing nutrients and sediment from the channel.
The restoration and stabilization of these two creeks will result in measurable improvements in the stream, floodplain, and riparian habitat. Specific outcomes are listed below.