- Ashtabula River RAP 2008 Annual Report (PDF) (12pp, 904 K)
- 2008 Delisting Targets for Ohio’s Areas of Concern (PDF) (85 pp, 1.6 MB)
- 5 ½ Slip Project Fact Sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 409 K)
A strategic dredging project will begin mid-August 2013. The project will vastly improve navigation in the Ashtabula River and Harbor Area of Concern. Dredging is expected to be complete in October, at which time the AOC may be designated an Area of Recovery.
In 2011, Ohio EPA began a large habitat restoration project using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds. This federal, state and local effort will develop 1,500 feet of fish shelf in the lower two miles of the river. The shelf will provide native fish species a shallow water habitat to forage and spawn. This project compliments an in-water and shoreline project to increase fish habitat completed in 2010 under the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
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About the Ashtabula River
The Ashtabula River lies in extreme northeast Ohio, flowing into Lake Erie's central basin at the city of Ashtabula. Its drainage basin covers an area of 137 square miles, with 8.9 square miles contained in western Pennsylvania. Major tributaries include Fields Brook, Hubbard Run and Ashtabula Creek. The city of Ashtabula is the only significant urban center in the watershed. The rest of the drainage basin is located in predominantly rural and agricultural areas. There is concentrated industrial development around Fields Brook and east of the river mouth.
From the 1940s through the late '70s, unregulated discharges and mismanagement of hazardous waste caused serious contamination in the river's sediments and degraded its biological communities. Major pollutants include PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), mercury and other heavy metals. Regular dredging is being prevented due to the contaminated sediments, seriously impeding both commercial and recreational navigation.
Since 1983, fish consumption advisories have been posted for the Area of Concern. The impairments primarily trace back to the unregulated release of toxic substances from various industrial facilities, including the Fields Brook Superfund site. The 1991 remedial action plan identified six beneficial use impairments in the Ashtabula River AOC.
Beneficial Use Impairments
- Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
- Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
- Fish tumors or other deformities
- Degradation of benthos
- Restriction on dredging activities
- Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
Efforts towards restoration
The Ashtabula River remedial action planning process began in 1988 with the establishment of the Ashtabula River RAP advisory council. That same year, the council agreed to focus upon an AOC defined as the lower two miles of the Ashtabula River, Ashtabula Harbor and the adjacent nearshore of Lake Erie. A variety of agencies and organizations contribute to the Ashtabula River RAP including federal, state and local agencies, local businesses and industries, and nonprofits.
- 1,600 linear feet of fish shelves were created in 2011 using funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The shelves will help restore fish habitat and improve native fish’s ability to forage and spawn in shallow waters.
- A comprehensive restoration project began at the 5 ½ Slip site on the Ashtabula River. The site encompasses a very large portion of the AOC and is a critical part of delisting. Expected outcomes of the effort included remediated wetlands, thousands of feet of fish shelves, improved fish and wildlife habitat, improved oxygen levels and better flow rates.
- A Great Lakes Legacy Act cleanup was completed in 2008 at the cost of approximately $70 million. Over 630,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was removed that included 25,000 pounds of PCBs and other hazardous materials. The project was a collaboration among federal, state and local agencies, and the effort helps to decrease human health and ecological risks that the Ashtabula River poses.
- A post-dredging habitat enhancement report was published in 2008. The report detailed possible restoration plans to consider in the future. Projects are prioritized based on specific criteria and most relate to habitat restoration. However, land preservation and human recreation efforts are also considered.
- Restoration activities at the Fields Brook Superfund site were completed in 2003, though cleanup efforts are ongoing. Continued remediation and monitoring will minimize future contamination in the Ashtabula River AOC.
- A comprehensive management plan for the river was issued in 2001. The plan includes analyses from an investigative and feasibility study, an environmental impact statement, remedy selection and community support.
You will need the free Adobe Reader to view some of the files on this page. See EPA's PDF page to learn more.
- Field Study on Environmental Dredging Residuals: Ashtabula River (PDF) (82 pp, 3.3 MB) September 2010
- Post-dredging Habitat Enhancement Plan Report for the Lower Ashtabula River, Ashtabula, Ohio (PDF) (18 pp, 286 K) March 2008
- Dredging Limits Confirmatory Sediment Sampling Report (PDF) (10 pp, 390 K) January 2004
- Ashtabula River Comprehensive Management Plan, Volume I (PDF) (937pp, 67.0 MB) June 2011
- Ashtabula River Comprehensive Management Plan, Volume II (PDF) (1371pp, 55.9 MB) June 2011
- Stage I RAP Report (PDF) (228 pp, 6.4 MB) December 1991
The Ashtabula River Partnership was formed in 1994 to promote voluntary river cleanups. The partnership focuses primarily on project implementation. It has also produced educational brochures to allow the public to become better acquainted with the Ashtabula River and encourage participation in the river’s restoration.
- Ashtabula River Port Authority
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources
- Ohio Sea Grant
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Buffalo District