The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded more than half a million dollars to the county commissioners to improve the water quality along the Black River.
According to a Tuesday news release from the EPA, the grant is a supplemental award to an existing $600,000 grant, increasing the total amount to just more than $1 million for the Black River Area of Concern.
The area of concern contains the main part of Black River from Lorain to Elyria, the French Creek watershed and shore of Lake Erie and was created as a result of discharges from industrial operations on the lower river that led to contamination.
“As administrator, I’m committed to improving environmental conditions and human health for the 30 million Americans who live and work in the Great Lakes region,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said. “EPA is working closely with state and local partners to advance our shared goal to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.”
The county plans on using the funding to restore two “critical areas” in the Willow Creek watershed, as it flows into the Black River, as well as one and a half acres of riparian wetland habitat at the Margaret Peak Nature Preserve in Eaton Township.
County Commissioner Lori Kokoski said the grant will help move the river clean up closer to the goal of no longer being listed as an aea of concern and to complete “all management actions” by 2019.
“The river has hosted a national and regional fishing tournaments and has numerous recognized birding and habitat areas within its watershed,” she said. “These all combine to grow our travel and tourism industry while improving our residents’ economic opportunities, recreational choices and environmental stewardship.”
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, said the funds show how the Great Lake Restoration Initiative can be used to clean up “toxic hotspots.”
“These funds will help Lorain continue existing efforts to clean up the Black River and create new economic opportunities along on an important coastal waterway,” she said. “This investment also highlights the importance of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and why we fought so hard, in a bipartisan way, to ensure this critical program was fully funded.”
The initiative, which was launched in 2010 and was almost unfunded earlier this year as part of President Donald Trump’s budget, has funded $23.5 million worth of projects to restore the Black River AOC.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer said he’s pleased to see the federal dollars come home to support the river.
“Our water resources are crucial to our future, and we must preserve them,” he said. “The good work on the Black River AOC is a start, and I’m happy to see that the work will be continuing.”