LORAIN — It takes backbreaking work and cold, hard cash to eradicate phragmites and other invasive species along the Black River, and a federal grant announced Thursday will help a Lorain County program keep doing just that.
The $634,889 grant is the third time the county has received funding to combat the invasive species pushing out the native plants in the Black River watershed and other areas of the county as the non-native vegetation spreads south, county Community Development Director Ron Romancak said.
The county has received two previous rounds of grant funding for its invasive species eradication program that have totaled nearly $1.5 million. The new grant will allow those efforts, begun in 2012, to continue into 2017, Romancak said.
“It’s taken some time, but we’re getting there,” he said.
The grant was part of $2.4 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding announced by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, on Thursday. The grants include projects along the length of Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline, including in Cuyahoga County.
“Protecting out Great Lakes ecosystem is both an environmental and an economic priority,” Kaptur said in the release.
The Lorain County grant will allow the county to hire 10 seasonal workers to do the hard work of actually taking out the invasive species.
In some places, Romancak said, the plants can be burned away, but in Lorain, where there are buildings, the work is done by hand and small tractors.
He said in order to eradicate phragmites, a tall reed, in that manner, the plants must be cut down and sprayed with herbicide and the process must then be repeated the next year to make certain the hardy plant doesn’t survive.
“It crowds out all the other native species and it reduces the diversity of habitat,” Romancak said.
Phragmites can also pose a problem for native animals in the area because it grows so thick the animals can’t get through the plants, he said.
Although the workers, who are part of the Black River Civilian Conservation Corps, largely have dealt with phragmites, Romancak said they have also dealt with other invasive species such as purple loosestrife and narrow-leaved cattail.
He said the program also includes eradication efforts in Avon, Elyria and Sheffield as well as Amherst and Eaton townships.
The workers are hired through the county’s Workforce Development program and also learn other skills that can help them find other jobs, county Administrator Jim Cordes said.
Romancak said so far more than 40 people have worked on the program.