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Ohio EPA Seeks Comments Concerning Upper Grand River Watershed Report

Ohio EPA has issued a draft report detailing water quality concerns and recommended improvements in Northeast Ohio’s upper Grand River watershed. The Agency is seeking public comments on the draft report before a final document is submitted to U.S. EPA.

The draft total maximum daily load (TMDL) report assesses overall water quality, identifies adverse impacts and outlines the steps necessary to improve watershed health. Once finalized, the TMDL will guide the implementation of local storm water programs and Ohio EPA’s issuance of discharge permits.

The upper Grand River watershed – comprising 417 square miles – flows through Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga and Portage counties. The watershed area is home to 63,300 people and six municipalities. The watershed is primarily forested and agricultural with only 6.3 percent developed. A 25-mile stretch of the main stem of the Grand River is designated a State Scenic River.

Of the sites sampled for the report, 86 percent met some or all of the biological goals. Only 16 percent of sites met recreation-based goals. While much of the Grand River and its tributaries harbor a diverse fish and insect population, there are areas that fail to meet the goals due to natural conditions (low flow and poor habitat) and human impacts (nutrients from farm fields, habitat modification, failing home sewage treatment systems, etc.).

The draft report recommends the impairments be corrected through a variety of measures including: implementing agricultural best management practices to reduce nutrients entering streams; possibly modifying or removing dams to improve flows and water quality; and restoring streams and riparian banks to improve habitat.

The federal Clean Water Act requires comprehensive TMDL reports for all impaired water bodies. The TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards. Ohio is one of a few states to measure the health of its streams by examining the number and types of fish and aquatic insects in the water. An abundance of fish and insects that tolerate pollution is an indicator of an unhealthy stream. A large number of fish and insects that are sensitive to pollution indicate a healthy stream.

The draft TMDL report and supporting documents are available online. Comments concerning the report may be mailed to Beth Risley, Ohio EPA Division of Surface Water, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH, 43216-1049 or emailed to beth.risley@epa.ohio.gov. The public comment period ends Oct. 18, 2012.

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