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Trustees and Partners Select Park Projects to Restore Natural Resources Injured by Hazardous Substances Releases into Ashtabula River, Ohio


06/07/2013


upland hardwood forest at Indian Trails Park, Ashtabula, OhioAn upland hardwood forest is shown here in the 402-acre Indian Trails Park, along the Ashtabula River in northeastern Ohio. Projects to restore natural resources and natural resource services injured by hazardous substances releases into Ashtabula River will be undertaken in the Park by the natural resource trustees and partners. Photo credit: Ashtabula Township Park Commission.

 

On June 7, 2013, the federal and State natural resource trustees and partners announced funding for park enhancement projects at Indian Trails Park, along the Ashtabula River south of the City of Ashtabula to restore natural resources and natural resource services injured by hazardous substances releases into lower Ashtabula River and Harbor in northeastern Ohio.

The natural resource trustees in this case include:

  • State of Ohio, represented by Ohio Environmental Protection Agency;
  • U.S. Department of Commerce, represented by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and, 
  • U.S. Department of the Interior, represented by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Since the 1940s, numerous industrial facilities in Ashtabula, Ohio, have released hazardous substances to the Ashtabula River. As a result, hazardous substances -- including PCBs, PAHs, chlorinated benzenes, chlorinated ethenes, hexachlorobutadiene and heavy metals -- have been found in the River’s sediments, water and fish. Natural resources such as fish, invertebrates, birds, water and sediments and natural resource services, such as lost recreational fishing, reduced opportunities for navigation, and passive human use losses, were injured.

The U.S. and the State of Ohio settled natural resource damage claims with 18 companies -- known as the Ashtabula River Cooperating Group II and the Railroads -- in a Consent Decree that was entered with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division in July 2012. This Consent Decree, valued at $5.5 million, called for the settling companies to implement certain natural resource restoration actions, pursuant to a publicly-reviewed Restoration Plan, such as:

  • acquiring ecologically-valuable properties along the River;
  • undertaking habitat restoration projects; and,
  • using land-use restrictions to protect these restoration properties.

In 2009, the trustees released a publicly-reviewed Restoration Plan identifying preferred alternatives to restore natural resources and natural resource services injured by these hazardous substances releases. Indian Trails Park, a 402-acre park south of the City of Ashtabula managed by Ashtabula Township Parks Commission, is identified in this Restoration Plan as a preferred restoration focus. The Park, which encompasses 4 miles of Ashtabula River front, is characterized by scenic vistas, adjacent flood plain, upland hardwood forests, wetlands, aquatic life, sensitive wildflowers and wildlife habitat.

The trustees and cooperating partners -- including ARCG II, Ashtabula Township Parks Commission, de maximus, inc. and Ohio Valley Group -- have announced that funding will be available from the settlement to implement natural resource restoration projects in Indian Trails Park. Specific projects to be funded include restoring woodland wetland habitat, a boardwalk, an observation point, a wetlands nature trail and a canoe launch into the Ashtabula River.

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