by John Ritzenthaler, National Audubon Society-Ohio
Efforts to Save a Wetlands Gem
The fight to save and restore Sheldon’s Marsh continues. Dredging under a Nationwide Permit (NWP) has resulted in a channel 50 feet wide and resultant dike about 1/4 mile in length along the western edge of Sheldon Marsh. The marsh, a 463-acre state nature preserve in Northwest Ohio along the Sandusky Bay region of Lake Erie, is one of the last Ohio remnants of a forest-marsh-lake ecosystem.
Recent developments include the official suspension on November 8 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, of its previous affirmation of a NWP issued to Barnes Nursery, Inc. (acting for CCCMB, i.e. Cedar Fair, Corso, Corso, Murray, and Barnes). The Corps cited noncompliance with the specifications of the NWP. They also stated that “in light of new information and comments from state and federal agencies, the Corps now believes that an error may have been made in the initial affirmation of the NWP. For this reason, review of the compliance plan is currently on hold.” [Affirmation of a NWP means that the proposed project has been “affirmed” to fit under the NWP.]
A meeting between Lt. Col. DeWillie, Buffalo District Commander, and Bob Barnes took place on December 1. The outcome of this meeting is not known, but activists and Senator Voinovich have requested meeting notes from the Corps. It is possible that the NWP may have been officially revoked at this meeting, but Barnes “may apply for authority (to continue) under an individual permit.” It appears that the state of Ohio’s rebuttal to the compliance plan submitted by Barnes was highly effective in establishing the fact that restoration is the necessary direction.
With pressure from Senator Voinovich’s office and hundreds of letters and calls from interested citizens decrying the devastation at the pristine Sheldon’s wetlands, a resolution of this problem appears closer. While awaiting the result of the meeting between the Corps and Barnes, it is imperative that government officials remain apprised of citizen interest. Comments on restoration to officials and newspapers have a cumulative effect. Another venue for help in bringing the issue a more public forum is an article planned in Audubon Magazine on the fight to restore Sheldon’s Marsh in the March/April 2001 edition. Look for it in the “Audubon in Action” section. Saving and restoring this gem in Ohio has been with the hard work of a core of conservationists and the help of many concerned citizens. Check out the progress at the current website www.schaffer.cc/sheldonsmarsh/sheldonsmarsh.html.