The last five or so miles of the Cuyahoga River flow through the industrial center of Cleveland and its new Flats developments. The ship channel hosts freighters carrying materials to and from the ArcelorMittal steel plant and bulk material transfer sites.
Bulkheads of steel and concrete hold back the river banks and ensure clear passage for 700-foot-long lake carriers as they navigate the river's twists and turns. The channel is dredged to 23 feet to allow these behemoths to pass.
It's not exactly a welcoming place for fish. Larval and juvenile fish coming out of the shallow natural river have to make it through what is basically a big, deep, hard-walled tub to get to Lake Erie. The water is silty, the large ships roil the waters with powerful bow- and stern-thrusters, discharges of warm water from sewer overflows and industrial users make some areas inhospitable for cold-water fish, and the welcoming habitats that provide oxygen, food, and shelter are very few and very far apart. Without accommodations for young fish, this habitat gap affects the health of the lake/river fishery that is so important to people and the Great Lakes economy.
The Habitat for Hard Places program works with many partners to increase the chances for fish that migrate through the area as well as those that are permanent residents.
New habitat structures in the Cuyahoga River's upper ship channel offer rest and habitat for young and small fish
With a grant from Sustain Our Great Lakes and ArcelorMittal, we have been able to design, fabricate, and install hundreds of habitat structures along the hard-walled bulkheads at the most-industrialized southernmost 2 miles of the ship channel.
The structures were put in place in 2015 and 2016, and are already accumulating organic matter that young fish can feed on. They have also begun to capture woody debris to provide shelter from the force of bowthrusters and to create hiding places to protect small fish from predators.
Scranton Flats fish habitat is open for business
On July 7, dignitaries and supporters gathered to cut the ribbon that signaled the official opening of the new Towpath Trail running along Scranton Road, and to dedicate the new Scranton Flats area of the Metropark.
The project includes new fish habitat areas carved out of the bank along the ship channel, a pier stretching toward the river, seating areas and interpretive signage.
For humans, it's a new place to gather and be close to the river. For fish, it's a place to rest between the natural river and the Lake. For geese, it's a smorgasbord of green snacks. And for the heron in the photo, it's the food truck. His (or her?) presence is a sign that fish are using the area, and that's a good thing.
Canalway Partners brought many federal, state and local partners and funders together to make the project happen, including Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, the RAP, Cleveland Metroparks, and major funding came from the state of Ohio and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. We, and the fish, say "thanks!"
Cuyahoga River Restoration
c/o Cuyahoga River Community Planning
1299 Superior Ave. E • Cleveland, OH 44114
216-241-2414 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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