ASHTABULA – More than $4.8 million has been released for a Lake Erie wetland restoration project in Ashtabula County, according to a press release State Sen. Sean J. O’Brien, D-Bazetta.
The project is expected to create additional recreational opportunities in the area and will support continued maintenance and operation of the Ashtabula Harbor. Led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project will directly address the intent of House Bill 529, passed in 2018, to promote the beneficial use of dredge material in Lake Erie.
The $4.8 million will cover the non-federal share of project costs, with the federal government providing an additional $8.9 million, according to the press release.
“I have always cared deeply about environmental issues, so I was glad to learn about the investment of these important funds,” O’Brien said in a prepared statement. “I have worked for years with my colleagues in the Ohio legislature on initiatives to benefit our Great Lake and I am confident this money will help improve water quality throughout the region.”
The funds were released by the Ohio Controlling Board, and the project will encompass about 25 acres behind the east breakwater in the Ashtabula Harbor. The investment is intended to improve Lake Erie water quality by eliminating the open-lake disposal of dredge material into the lake in support of the new H2Ohio water quality initiative. Through the creation of an in-water aquatic ecosystem and new habitats using dredged material, the project will result in needed wetland, fish and wildlife habitats and water quality benefits.
Eddy Eckart, a consultant for the Ashtabula City Port Authority, said the Port Authority has been working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for two years on this project.
"We are excited to see it continue to progress," he said. "This project is a great solution to the challenge of locating dredge material because it also builds ecosystems and will contribute to the wonderful natural resources that already exist in and around the Ashtabula River."
The state's allocation of funding is a critical step in the process, Eckart said.
City Manager Jim Timonere said city officials are thrilled this funding has come along for the project.
"It has been extremely challenging finding reuse for the dredging materials and of course the funds to meet the new EPA guidelines," he said.
Ashtabula City Council President John Roskovics said it's exciting and welcome news for the area.
"The condition of our lake is of utmost importance to our town," he said. "Any efforts to keep the lake healthy and accessible will provide long-term and immeasurable benefits to Ashtabula."