COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has made great strides in the first year of Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio Initiative. One year after Governor DeWine announced plans to improve water quality for all of Ohio, ODNR has moved forward with dozens of projects that will contribute to the overall health of Lake Erie.
ODNR’s role in the H2Ohio Initiative is to create and enhance wetlands to provide a nature-based solution to improve water quality. Wetlands contribute to water quality efforts by trapping, filtering, and removing excess pollutants and nutrients, like phosphorus, from the water before they flow into Lake Erie and contribute to harmful algal blooms. Toxic algal blooms can impact drinking water that serves nearly 12 million people and a critical ecosystem for fish and wildlife throughout the Western Lake Erie Basin.
“I am proud of the incredible progress our H2Ohio team made in the first year of this initiative,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “We are building dozens of wetlands that will significantly reduce the nutrient runoff into Ohio’s streams and waterways and ultimately Lake Erie, which will mean cleaner water for generations to come.”
ODNR committed more than $50 million for H2Ohio wetland projects, and ODNR has moved quickly to put that money to good use. To date, ODNR’s efforts have brought dozens of wetlands projects to life, with dozens more on the horizon. Each project is carefully designed to provide the best water-quality benefit for its unique location.
ODNR is also offering incentives to encourage farmers to aid in conservation and improve water quality through the new H2Ohio Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP), offered in combination with the Lake Erie Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP is a USDA conservation program that offers farmers and landowners financial compensation for taking cropland out of production and establishing conservation practices. The WQIP will offer a one-time payment of $2,000 per acre for new Lake Erie CREP wetlands and forested riparian buffers to help improve water quality in the Lake Erie watershed. This program gives farmers a unique opportunity to benefit the environment and themselves.
ODNR’s success in the H2Ohio initiative has been fueled by strong partnerships. So far, ODNR has formed partnerships with 20 outside entities including Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, The Black Swamp Conservancy, the Winous Point Conservancy, Crawford, Hancock, Medina, Miami and Seneca County Park Districts, Metroparks Toledo, the Ottawa, Erie and Clermont Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Lake Facilities Authority, Allen County Engineer (city of) Tipp City, the City of Toledo, the Toledo Port Authority, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Our partners in conservation have acquired land, undertaken the design and engineering of these projects, and turned dirt – they are dedicated visionaries, and they are making these projects a reality.
Another dedicated partner in this work is the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA). This year, OWDA provided $5 million to help strengthen the impact of the water quality initiative. The funding will be focused on high-priority projects around the Maumee River and Western Lake Erie Basin and expand ODNR’s H2Ohio program with more projects in the Ohio River watershed. The assistance from OWDA will also extend the monitoring timeline and adaptive management of these projects through ODNR’s partnership with the researchers of the Lake Erie & Aquatic Research Network (LEARN).
By the time current projects are complete, there will be approximately 80,000 acres of watershed filtered by wetland projects and more than 5,500 acres of wetlands created, restored, or enhanced. H2Ohio, at its core, is a powerful collaboration. It’s an alignment of mission across state agencies, industry, agriculture, and conservation organizations working together to improve water quality. This is only the beginning; we expect big things from H2Ohio in 2021.
For more information on the H2Ohio initiative or current and future wetland projects please visit h2.ohio.gov.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.
Stephanie O’Grady, ODNR Office of Communications