home to expanding aquatic life
The Associated Press
LORAIN, Ohio - A
river best known for its environmental problems is now
home to fish that are thriving in a shallow manmade shelf
with plants and rocks.
The Black River project
"can't be appreciated until you dip a line in the water,"
said Roger Thoma, a fisheries biologist with the Ohio
Environmental Protection Agency. "It's pretty amazing
what we're finding."
The project is a first for
Ohio and unique to the Great Lakes. Its success could
spur a similar project in the 5-mile shipping channel
in the Cuyahoga River.
The Lorain Port Authority
built the fish shelf, transforming a former 25-acre industrial
site on the river's west bank into a riverfront park as
part of a $7 million state-funded project.
The port authority had destroyed
400 feet of the natural bank along the river to create
a dock. Building the dock wall along the bank "is the
same as pouring toxic chemicals in the water," Mr. Thoma
said. "It creates a desert for the fish."
So the Ohio EPA required
the port to enhance fish habitat.
The shallow-water shelf
in this city west of Cleveland re-creates 800 feet of
wetland along the Black River, one of Ohio's most polluted
"We want this to be a showcase
for an urban, working river," said Richard M. Novak, Lorain's
port authority director.
When Mr. Thoma sampled the
area in June, one month after the first section of habitat
was built, he found 20 different species - the most he
has ever found there.
He expects the number and
variety of fish to be greater next summer, when he samples
"The fish populations are
recovering and improving," said Mr. Thoma, who devised
the fish shelf. "We're seeing big improvement right away.
But if we wait even longer, we'll see more."
Rocks, shallow water and
plants provide a place for fish to lay eggs, and, once
they hatch, a place for young fish to hide as they grow.
Those small fish in turn attract bigger fish.
The project is another step
in the recovery of the Black River, an industrial waterway
that receives bulk shipments for agriculture and the steel
and construction industries.