Wednesday, April 26, 2000
Mill Creek stream of contrasts
Flotilla aims to raise awareness of problems
By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A stream of contrasts flows through the suburban Mill Creek Valley.
Mike Miller, UC biology professor, and U.S. Rep. Rob Portman discuss bank erosion along the Mill Creek.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
It is a stream where discarded tires, chunks of dumped concrete, remnants of old plumbing fixtures debris of all sorts mingle with the croak of bullfrogs, beaver dams, and the grace of a great blue heron standing in the shallows.
Tuesday, scientists, environmentalists, members of grass-roots organizations and government officials took to the Mill Creek in canoes and kayaks to get a firsthand look at a stream in trouble.
Members of the flotilla ranged from officials of small towns bordering the stream to U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, and regional planners from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Governments (OKI).
The trip's purpose was to provide interested groups and individuals some awarenesses of the existing conditions of Mill Creek's problems, said Karen Ellwood, executive director of the nonprofit Mill Creek Watershed Council. The group is dedicated to improving the stream that in 1997 was designated the most endangered urban river in North America'' by the conservation group American Rivers.
The overall goal of all of us is to bring the creek up to state water quality standards. Some areas are in attainment; many are not, Ms. Ellwood said.
ABOUT MILL CREEK|
The 28-mile-long Mill Creek, with headwaters in Butler County, meanders through the heart of Greater Cincinnati through parts of 36 communities. About 500,000 people live within its drainage basin. |
A report compiled by American Rivers researchers notes: The Mill Creek best represents the urgent threats facing America's urban rivers. Industrialization, urbanization and channelization have eliminated (riverbank) habitat, disrupted the stream's natural flow ... and increased sediment loads, stream bank erosion and toxic contamination.
Tuesday's trip took the group 3.5 miles, from General Electric in Evendale south to the Galbraith Road overpass near Interstate 75, through quiet tree-lined pools to openings where sewer overflow drains and other pipes disgorge waste
and tainted liquids into the current.
Mr. Portman, a Republican from Terrace Park whose district includes part of the creek said he supports a long-term initiative to save it.
Mr. Portman said a formal request for $34.8 million in federal funds for 2001 has been made to the House Energy and Water Development Committee for an innovative public-private joint venture by the (nonprofit) Mill Creek Restoration Project and the Metropolitan Sewer District. The project would aim to reduce the number of MSD sewer overflows into the creek and conduct environmental restoration in some sections of the creek.
Mr. Portman also said another $1.4 million has been requested to help revitalize Mill Creek, with $700,000 of that earmarked for flood control and ecosystem restoration.
Before the creek tour, General Electric Aircraft Engines announced a $25,000 grant to the Mill Creek Restoration Project.
Mike Miller, a professor of biology at the University of Cincinnati, who has studied Mill Creek, said the tour showed evidence of unwanted phosphorus and ammonia enrichment in plant life, as well as bank and sediment erosion caused by flooding that has resulted from overdevelopment upstream.
Mr. Miller said there is significant abuse by landowners abutting the creek who have removed trees and other plants that stabilize its banks. At the same time, he said, we saw a compressed wildlife corridor. Wildlife of all kinds is drawn to the stream and the strip of green land along its banks.
Mr. Portman said the tour emphasized how troubled the creek is with erosion, pollution and flood damage.
But these are problems we can address, he said.
Little Miami Inc. has made incredible progress on that river to the point 20,000 people enjoy it a weekend. That, to me, is the long-term vision for this, he said.
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