13-acre wetlands restoration project on Butler County farm begins

Restoring a wetlands area to entice wildlife to return there as well as improving the water quality is the goal of a project on a farm property on Indian Creek Road. Groundbreaking for the Indian Creek-Hoffmann Wetland and Stream Restoration project was April 21.

The work is being done with a state grant through Governor Mike DeWine’s H2Ohio initiative, which originally focused on northern Ohio projects but has moved to the southwest part of the state. This is one of only 13 restoration projects selected but H2Ohio funding in the Ohio River Basin and only one of two on private property.

It is a joint effort of the Three Valley Conservation Trust and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The stream and wetland restoration project is intended to restore the hydrologic connection and enhance the largest permanently protected wetland in the Beal’s Run – Indian Creek watershed.

Property owner Lew Hoffmann said he does not consider himself owner of the land but its steward and wants to see the natural habitat restored so the wildlife he has seen there in past years will return.

He said there had formerly been a blue heron rookery there as well as beavers which built homes there.

“I hope the Great Blue Herons will come back. I hope the beaver will come back,” he said.

The site is downstream from the MetroParks’ Indian Creek Park and also on hand for the groundbreaking was Miami graduate Jeff Davis, who said he has lived in Butler County all his life. He said he was a frequent visitor to the park in his student days. On those stops, he saw eight species of frogs and toads including cricket frogs and leopard frogs. He said he was part of a study of baseline survey of creatures found there.

“I have a pretty good idea of what should be here,” he said. “I look for spotted salamanders. I suspect they will make their way back.”

Three Valley Conservation Trust Executive Director Randy Evans noted Hoffmann put his land into conservancy with the trust in 2007 and this restoration project “just kind of evolved” with the property when H2Ohio funding became available.

“He represents a lot of regional landowners,” Evans said of the land trust which has approximately 25,000 acres in easements in seven counties.

Also on hand for the event was Steve Gray, assistant director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He said he is passionate about wildlife and appreciates the support of H2Ohio, which has gotten off to a good start. He said conservation efforts still have a way to go, but compared the current situation to that of the 1970s.

“We’ve made a lot of improvements but we still have a long way to go, especially in water quality,” Gray said, citing such things as algae blooms which threatened the water intake for the city of Toledo. “That was a red alert.”

He said the announcement of the H2Ohio program is important with 83 projects either completed or soon to be completed. The original focus was on northern Ohio, but has moved downstate, he said as they look for opportunities and partners.

“We cannot do it without landowners,” he said. “Most of the landscape is in private ownership.”

Contractor for the project is Davey Resource Group and Craig Straub from the firm was present. He described the work they are to do as a water quality project with a stream piece and a wetlands piece. The work is to include work on both banks of the stream, restoring the wetlands area on one side and improving the planting buffer on the other side to stabilize the stream bed which has been eroding.

H2Ohio is a comprehensive, data-driven approach to improving water quality over the long term. H2Ohio focuses on encouraging agricultural best management practices, restoring and enhancing wetlands, and replacing home septic systems to reduce nutrients that contribute to harmful algal blooms.

For information on the H2Ohio initiative, visit h2.ohio.gov.

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