After years of planning and thanks to the support of public agencies and private donors, construction began this week on a project to restore the stream channel and floodplain wetlands in the headwaters of Big Darby Creek State and National Scenic River.
This project takes place on the Joseph Glenn Ebersole Stream Restoration Site at The Nature Conservancy’s 800-acre Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve in Logan County. It aims to restore the only stream segment on the Big Darby that has been diverted from its natural course. The $1.8 million project will be completed over the next two years and is being paid for through a partnership that involves both public agencies and private donations.
“You don’t often hear this from a conservation group, but I was excited to see the backhoe on the preserve,” said Terry Seidel, the Ohio director of protection for The Nature Conservancy. “We’ve been working toward this day for several years and we’re going to be happy to see the creek restored to a more natural shape.”
The project aims to restore more than a mile of stream at the headwaters of the Big Darby Creek – the place where the Big Darby becomes a permanent stream. The stream here has been channelized – meaning that the stream has been straightened and dredged to speed the flow of water off the land. Traditionally, streams were channelized to improve drainage for farmland and roads or other development.
This is the only part of the Big Darby Creek – which covers more than 80 miles between the headwaters and the confluence with the Scioto – where the stream has been channelized. As a result, this part of the stream does not meet Clean Water Act standards for fish diversity and wildlife habitat.
“The project will actually begin with the construction of a new channel – one that follows more closely the contours of the land and re-connects the creek with its floodplain and expands adjacent wetlands,” said Anthony Sasson, Ohio freshwater conservation manager for the Conservancy.“It’s going to look a little rough at first, with all the earth being moved around, but in the end, it will restore natural habitat in one of Ohio’s most biologically diverse streams and will improve water quality for miles downstream.”
The Big Darby Creek is a state and national scenic river that is widely recognized as one of the most biologically diverse streams for its size in the Midwest. The Darby watershed - part of the larger Lower Scioto River Basin - encompasses 560 square miles and provides habitat for at least 100 species of fish and 44 species of mussels. Thirty-eight rare species have been recorded in the watershed, including 15 fish and 23 mussels. Because of the continuous groundwater flow to the area, the Big Darby headwaters include coldwater fish species such as central mottled sculpin, southern redbelly dace, and least brook lamprey, very unusual for streams in this region.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.