Lorain is a mid-sized commercial harbor located in the central basin of Lake Erie between Sandusky and Cleveland. The Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, partnered with OhioEPA, has initiated a Continuing Authorities 204 Project in order to use dredged material for wetland creation. Healthy Port Futures was brought on board during feasibility to aid in the discussion and choice of five potential sites for wetland creation, the development of preliminary design concepts, and the communication to the public stakeholders.
Two hundred feet at its deepest, Lake Erie is the shallowest of the Great Lakes. Consequently, it is plagued with water quality issues that stem from the bordering working agricultural landscape, and the historical loss of its coastal wetlands. In particular, the central basin, which historically supported more protected coastal wetlands in the form of drowned river-mouths, has experienced major wetland loss. The majority of the major rivers in this area were developed into industrial ports. This development led to the armoring of the river and lakeshore, deepening of the river channel for navigation, and breakwater protection around the river-mouth. These alterations significantly changed the lacustrine habitat, and led to a significant loss of important ecological habitat and functions.
In many of these ports, the restoration of historic wetlands are not an option. The historical lowlands have been built up, armored, and shaped from their original states. Instead, novel wetlands are built to provide the ecological habitat and functions that have since been lost. What does it mean to build wetlands in locations that did not historically support them? How might these wetlands provide slightly altered or different services? With these questions in mind, our project is to aid in the siting, design, and communication of these novel wetlands.
These novel coastal wetlands can already be seen as the unintentional results of built alterations to the port landscape. Many of the confined disposal facilities (CDFs), which were built to hold contaminated dredge material, contain marsh and low-lying mudflats and consequently, important shorebird habitat. Unplanned wetlands have formed in the Lorain harbor itself, wedged between breakwaters and the slips behinds them. Both of these resultant types of wetland habitats are the product of altered wave conditions. The wave environment, as determined by the location, and the amount of protection, directly informs wetland form and its resilience. Passive sediment management designs for forces, like waves and currents, to do some of the work to move, deposit, and shape the sediment. For the Lorain project, our team focuses on designing a system that will allow wave forces to create complexity in the wetland. To explore these ideas, the team chose three sites to demonstrate alternative passive sediment management projects. HPF teamed with AnchorQEA, to test these sites under daily wave conditions and storm conditions.